and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
December #4

Listen to your mother and stay healthy
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, December 28, 2007

Popular New Year Resolutions: to lose weight, start an exercise program, or stop smoking. I propose that we broaden them for 2008.

We should do this not just because it feels good to be healthy, but because we owe it to society. The least we can do, since the federal government has determined that we all get medical treatment whether we can pay for it or not, is to not need it. If we or our employers pay for it, we should help control premiums by not using the benefit.

So while it is sometimes hard to determine what's good for us - recalling the butter vs. margarine debate, for instance, and remembering the joy in learning that chocolate has antioxidants - once we figure it out we are obligated to do the good things and avoid the bad things.

The reason 2008 is the year to broaden our health quest is that we are now part of a Massachusetts community effort. On Jan. 1, a new state law requires that all citizens have health insurance. People whose companies don't provide health insurance, or who can't afford their share of the premium or a personal policy, can get a state subsidy - which increases their responsibility to stay healthy because the taxpayers who will be supporting them have their own premiums to pay.

So here are some suggestions for staying healthy in 2008 and beyond.

Category One, common sense mostly handed down from my mother's generation:

Don't run with scissors or sticks. Don't put jellybeans in your ears. Don't ruin your eyes by reading without proper light. Don't swim after eating and don't go in the deep end until you can dog paddle. Don't get a chill. Look both ways before crossing. Don't stand up in the pickup truck. Don't play on the railroad tracks, though the street is usually OK and the woods are fine. Have an eye-dropper of fish oil during the winter when you're not playing in the sun. Be careful with that sparkler! Watch where you aim your BB gun and slingshot. Eat your peas. Have another helping of everything! Wash your hands. Wash the apple. Brush your teeth. Don't even think of having sex till you're married, and I'm not telling you any more about how that works because you don't need to know until the wedding. Sleep tight.

And the things kids would have been told if it had occurred to mothers it was necessary: Don't smoke or drink yet. Don't smoke pot. Don't lick the windowsills or your lead-paint-covered toys. Don't play cowboys and Indians with arrows made of sharpened sticks. Be careful with the knife when you are making blood brothers. Don't crawl into caves you find in the woods. Don't cross the pasture with the bull in it unless you are sure you can run faster than he can. Don't climb the town water tower. Don't catch a sled ride on a moving car. Don't dive into the quarry. If you do these things, don't tell me if you know what's good for you.

The next generation of mothers substituted or added these: Don't smoke ever. Don't use my scissors, here are some little ones just for your little hand. Don't eat jellybeans or other sugar-laden treats. Watch the fats or carbs or whatever the latest government study tells you to watch, and ignore what the last one told us last month. Wear your helmet. Stay off the streets when playing ball or sledding. Don't go barefoot outdoors. No fireworks. Wear your sunblock. Wear your seat belt and don't ride in the back of a pickup truck. Wear a condom. Wash your hands with antibacterials. Don't share your blood or for that matter, your soft drink, which you're not supposed to be having anyhow. Don't play where I can't see you, and don't even think of running off to the woods for the day. Don't hold the dog's leash while you are riding your bike. If you are a boy, take this medication to calm you.

They should rethink some of those and add these: No, we don't serve you and your friends alcohol at home so you learn to "drink responsibly." If I catch you smoking anything you're grounded for life, and just in case despite your genes you're really stupid, don't experiment with drugs. While you're not running around in the woods or out of my sight, don't overdo television or computer time, preparing your body for obesity and diabetes. Take your Vitamin D to make up for the sunshine that never touches your skin. Do you have to carry all that weight in your backpack?

Don't eat food from bake sales because the board of health hasn't inspected the amateur bakers' kitchens.

If we all try harder to be healthy, maybe our health-care system will become more affordable. And, congratulations to the modern parents who, while more aware than we were about a lot of things, have managed to keep their common sense and perspective, letting their kids be kids. Happy New Year.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.