There is a hashtag floating around twitter: #occupyhealthcare

I get it. There are huge issues with the system. We have compensation issues (for example: back surgeries, largely ineffective for chronic back pain are easily and handsomely reimbursed, while the same insurance plan does not cover physical therapy, you know, the less expensive less invasive therapy that works). We have so many people without health insurance that it boggles the mind. We have a system run by big business and lawyers (because that’s who we elect as our politicians, people) who have agendas that often seem as remote from the concept of care as possible.

But to paraphrase, the fault, dear Brutus, also lies within ourselves.

Say what?

Well, there are most certainly these extraneous nefarious forces, but we also contribute a lot to our health care costs. Possibly more than most countries. Consider obesity: a staggering 33.8% of Americans are obese costing us over $147 billion a year. If our obesity rate was simply on par with Canada (22%), think how much that would save us annually?

Being overweight is not the fault of the health care system. It’s not about fault at all, although we have a unique culture that certainly provides the right ingredients. You know, apples more expensive than potato chips. Parents working 2 or 3 jobs and so fucking exhausted at the end of the day that the chemical filled chicken tenders from the freezer will have to do. But at the end of the day, McDonalds only sold Super Size because we bought it. No one really needs 42 ounces of Coke.

So while I applaud all efforts to change the health care system, we could save a lot of money and by also making #occupyhealthcare personal.

If you must have fast food, ask for water instead of a soda.

If budget and time are big issues, think about a crockpot. With some advanced planning there are tons of healthy and inexpensive meals you can throw together in the morning so the food is hot and ready to serve when you walk in the door and are just to exhausted to cook.

If you are overweight commit to losing 5% of your body weight.

Exercise at least 150 minutes a week (as a single mom I’m on a major time crunch so I get 90 of those minutes at lunch time during my work week).

If you smoke, call 1-800-quit-now.

Get your flu vaccine.

Take your medications as prescribed, or if you have issues with your medications, call your doctor now. Don’t wait until your next visit.

Use contraception unless you are planning to get pregnant.

If you are planning to get pregnant, take a prenatal vitamin.

There are thousands of ways we can all #occupyhealthcare.

Because there is no doubt the system needs changing, but we all need to do our part. And not just at the voting booth.

Join the Conversation


  1. Personal pursuits make a difference in health. Individuals who take responsible steps for health whether it’s more physical activity, smoking cessation or medical adherence will face a complex environmental challenges where place matters. The research provides evidence. Some face forces more formidable than will power. A recent study pubishe in the NEJM study demonstrates how place matters. [1] Another example, even the dig of out of poverty, educational achievement and economic prosperity don’t change the high risk of preterm births and maternal death for black women these causes are unnatural. “UCLA obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Michael Lu believes that for many women of color, racism over a life time, not just during the nine months of pregnancy, increases the risk of preterm delivery. To improve birth outcomes, Lu argues, we must address the conditions impacting women’s health not just when they become pregnant but from childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.” see clip at

    There social determinants of health.[2] Science and medicine are about systems where bias is endemic. We should address issues beyond the doctors office that impact health. Where we live, work and play influences health and health care and impacts in our personal efforts to achieve health. For example the national foreclosure crisis is making people sick. [3]

    It’s like thinking about how your family spending impacts the nation’s economy without considering financial institutions and corporations.

    The low hanging fruit you suggest may help some, but doesn’t remedy the pervasive ills facing our society.


    1. Ludwig J, Sanbonmatsu L, Gennetian L, Adam E, Duncan GJ, Katz LF, Kessler RC, Kling JR, Lindau ST, Whitaker RC, McDade TW. Neighborhoods, obesity, and diabetes–a randomized social experiment. N Engl J Med. 2011 Oct 20;365(16):1509-19.

    2. Braveman P, Cubbin C, et al. Socioeconomic status in health research: one size does not fit all. JAMA 2005;294(22): 2879-88

    3.”Foreclosure Process Takes Toll on Physical, Mental Health”

  2. Love your empowering message to “piss or get off the pot”. I’m all for people taking responsibility for themselves. That said, lets look at the populations most struck by obesity and ask what’s going on here?

    A recent blogpost of mine looks at the connection between community and health:

    And another recent NY Times article draws the connection between feelings of powerlessness and portion size:

    Just adding some food for thought. Pun intended. 🙂

  3. Katherine & Jen–When I read the post and the comment, my thought was–now we’re working toward a solution. I think this is a both/and proposition. We need to address the issues of personal responsibility and harvest low-hanging fruit when possible and appropriate. Do people in safe neighborhoods need to get physically active? Yes. We can’t simply do that, or we’re stuck with the same cultural and social factors that contribute to the current situation. Do we have a responsibility to try to create safe neighborhoods so everyone can be physically active, even if they can’t afford a gym membership? Yes. So we need to think micro AND macro. Personal AND systemic. The #OccupyHealthcare team is working on coming up with concrete action steps that might move this forward on both levels. 🙂

  4. I think it is a COP-OUT by the medical profession to say that overweight and overeating are the responsibility of the individual patient!! It appears to me as a virtually intractable social problem, thrust upon us by multiple social and environmental influences. If individual responsibility worked as well on losing weight as it does on turning up for work on time, there would be millions of boring tales about successful weight loss.

    Being such a difficult target to achieve, weight loss must involve more than sticking to what your doctor says with heaps of will-power. After all, most of us can stick to our regular medication as instructed by our docs but most of us can’t stick to all the new thoughts, behaviours and fundamental attitude changes that weight loss requires.

    It’s a whole of society problem and we’re all members. We have to create a society where eating and exercising sensibly is the NORM. It certainly isn’t at the moment, so most of us conform to the current norm.

    I’m a really persistent proponent of “whole street” regular exercise programs, where a leader is responsible for trying to enrol everyone and [at first] getting them up and out to the streets or nearby park etc for exercise. Governments [local, regional, state, national] could call for funding from Public Health budgets, get these started and off we go- beginning on the path to make exercise so common you dare not be an absentee!

    Everyone would feel far less guilty and might stop some of that anxious over-eating as well!

  5. #experiment I noticed that I overeat when something is bothering me that I am ignoring. #occupyhealthcare is making me lean. #socialengagement #selfempowerment #selfdetermination = best diet ever!

    Keep up the conversation. Listen, Clarify, Analyze, Plan, Execute, Measure, Repeat. My idea at how crowdsourcing can solve all the world’s problems with the right set of sandbox rules and a new imagination of equally distributing the world’s wealth.

  6. Jen:

    I dig this post. Personal responsibility is always part of equation. I am citing this blog in an upcoming post to There is so much to be done to reform our healthcare system that starting at ground zero (yourself) is always a great place to build momentum. Thanks for your insights.


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