By Daniel Steiche
We humans continue to eat ourselves sick. Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases lead comorbidity risks for COVID-19. Now is our time to start eating ourselves well.
The paths toward great ideas are mapped in part by our journeys through impacts and their implications. The COVID-19 pandemic has created monumental impacts, has broad and emerging implications, and avails catalysts for change through ideas to address both new and pre-existing conditions toward progressively improving the human experience. A pre-existing health condition we must address to improve our life experience and resilience beyond 2020 spans what and how we eat.
Why is this so essential? Beyond detailed study (April 30, 2020) of 7337 Chinese patients, adverse impacts of COVID-19 disease among those with Type 2 diabetes and related conditions (hypertension, coronary artery disease) are well documented – note the daunting revelations of material differentiation of suffering among the USA’s African-American communities. Further medical evidence into June 2020 is rapidly revealing that COVID-19 - beyond causing fatal pulmonary inflammation - is in fact a novel vascular disease. In short, the evolving evidence is that this new virus infects the vascular system beyond the lungs due the presence of a single protein – furin – which allows the virus to infect and inflame endothelial cells within multiple essential organ systems, throughout the body. Endothelial cell dysfunction leads to compound symptoms of blood clots and intravascular inflammation – a dangerous combination that explains both new conditions such as “COVID Toes” and devastating outcomes such as strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and other adverse outcomes from clots, insufficient oxygenation, or both. COVID-19 harms and kills by exploiting systemic vulnerabilities in humans; it does so systematically by its design. We in turn need to proactively redesign our lives to minimize such vulnerabilities. Changing our diets is our first course of action; exercise is essential. Pharmacological intervention has a role to play, reactively. It may have a role to play proactively, as a tertiary measure.
As individuals and households we can choose to make better dietary choices, but our choices are limited by market and governance ecosystems which will dictate the extent of our choices around what and how we eat ourselves well – or sick.
There are intersectional points of concern and opportunity for productive collaboration toward better food futures. Ecosystems of food supply (production, access, local channels, globalized supply chain, etc.) are in flux. A short list of related concerns span: individual and regional economic standing; the future of work itself; the role of public health authorities and their policy-setting / governance for the benefit of the citizenry; and the role of employers in promoting multi-point wellness for human resources.
Multiple actors have essential roles to play. Key choices need to be made. Industries will need to shift their value propositions and processes. And there will certainly be winners and losers. Overall health, well-being, and resilience of the human individual must be the targets to win most – with cascading, lasting, meaningful benefits for employers, industries, health systems, governments, and economic recovery and resilience. Choices we collectively make will dictate our long-term health – as individuals and as organizations. Choose your health by treating it as your wealth.