05/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What's Wrong in the East: What's Right in the West

My colleague came into work the other day very frustrated. I immediately asked him what was wrong and he began talking about the economy and the ongoing effects the economic climate is having on his community. To date, he explained, he and his family never really felt as though they were terribly affected by the economic or healthcare challenges facing this country. He has a good job and great benefits and he felt that both he and his family were somewhat shielded from what was going on.

That said, he and his wife recently learned of changes in their Northern New Jersey community. Their community is cutting a number of social services. Challenged by the economy, officials in their town are now cutting "non-essential" services like health education programs to seniors and recreation programs for kids. Both he and his wife are bewildered that the town would consider cutting programs that promote wise health choices, especially in the wake of the overwhelming healthcare (or now better referred to as sickcare) crisis that all of us must recognize.

The economic bell is still tolling -- and the sound is not a welcome one. People who once felt shielded by the effect of the economic crisis are beginning to come to terms with the reality. School programs are being abandoned, seniors marginalized, community outreach programs that promote prevention and exercise have been canceled and the end of these cuts is not in sight.

My colleague questioned what else can local communities do. The federal government is tightening its belt and this is trickling down to the states and then to towns and cities across the United States. My local community, his local community, your local community -- every community has to make up for lost tax revenue. He understands all of this but does not understand why they would specifically cut programs that promote health and well being. Why attack our most vulnerable citizens: our seniors and our children?

As I talked to a friend living in Northern California about this very issue, he quipped and said, "They should move to California. I was stopped while walking down the street the other day by healthcare professionals who were manning a temporary healthcare booth. They took my blood pressure and gave me the H1N1 vaccine."

Something just doesn't seem right.