10/10/2013 01:05 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

You Can Fix the Health Care Reform Hullabaloo

Okay, so our federal government is shut down, ostensibly over health care reform. That makes it pretty clear that health care is important, and health care reform controversial.

But here's the thing: The CDC is projecting that should current trends persist, by about the middle of this century, one in three Americans will be diabetic. One in three! That's over 100 million people. There are only about 27 million diabetics in the U.S. today, and already medical coverage is a contentious enough issue to shut down our federal government.

But, let's be blunt. The whole argument over so-called "health care" reform is moot if one in three of us is going to be diabetic. There is simply no way to pay that bill. If we think coverage is a challenge now, just wait and see what life is like then.

Or not. Let's not wait. Let's not find out how terrible life can be when one in three of us succumbs to a serious, potentially disabling chronic disease at ever younger age. Let's not see what it's like when disease care costs suck up our entire GDP. Let's not give our kids THAT future. Let's just fix this.

What we need is true HEALTH care reform. I'm a doctor, and I say with no shame that by and large, what we call a "health" care system is, in fact, a disease care system. It's important just the same; when you get sick, you need me and my colleagues. At times, we all need clinics or hospitals or drugs or surgery.

But health isn't built in hospitals; disease is treated there. Health is built every day, over the course of a lifetime, in the places we work, and learn, and play, and pray, and love, and live. Or it isn't. And if it isn't, the "health care" system can't fix it. It can't make us healthy. It can treat disease, and often quite well. It can forestall death, and often impressively, if at high cost. But it can't build health and vitality. That power resides with you.

And the power is nothing less than stunning. If you were to exercise the latent power in your hands, you could slash your lifetime risk of ALL major chronic diseases -- diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, dementia, and more -- by 80 percent. The science to back this up is voluminous, consistent, and not even controversial. You can do this for yourself, and your children. You can do this, and pay it forward to those you love. And, so could every other family.

And if enough families took the steps to disease-proof ourselves, there would be 80 percent less chronic disease in our society. The evidence suggests that simply applying what we already know could eliminate at least 90 percent of diabetes specifically. So now, instead of trying to pay for the care of 80 million MORE diabetics, we would have 24 million FEWER. With the money we would save as a nation treating 24 million fewer diabetics, the challenges of health care coverage would dry up and blow away. Our government could pay its bills and do its job.

But only if we do ours. Who, if not you, is going to build your health? Sorry, but doctors don't do that; we can't. It's you, or it's no one.

But that's not fair if you don't know how. There is a skill set involved in converting the science of disease prevention into actions you and your family can take every day. That skill set is accessible. If you want it, you can have it.

If great responsibility comes with great power, then taking responsibility requires being empowered. You can be empowered to take responsibility for your health if you are so inclined.

We truly do have the opportunity to slash our personal lifetime risk of any serious chronic disease by 80 percent. We truly have the opportunity to pay that forward to our children, and share it with those we love. And collectively, if enough of us do this for personal reasons, we have the opportunity not merely to reform the health of our nation, but to revolutionize it.

True "health" care reform resides not with our fractious Congress, but with us and our families. What do you plan to do about it?


Disease-Proof is available at bookstores nationwide and at:

Dr. David L. Katz;

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