US Response to Coronavirus Dictated by Panic, Not Policy

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – Nobody is prescient. No one could have foreseen the timing and the extent of the coronavirus pandemic explosion which originated in China and then from there spread all over the world. However, as I noted elsewhere, the US was especially vulnerable, because it was utterly unprepared to meet any public health emergency.

No systems, no plans

Amazing but true, America had no “pandemic early warning system” in place so that a timely alarm could be sounded, nor did America have any meaningful public health “rapid reaction force” in place that could have been activated after the alarm had been sounded, in order to deploy all the necessary medical equipment and other materials where mostly needed, while ordering and enforcing the necessary contagion prevention measures, (immediate widespread testing, quarantines, social distancing, and lock downs).

True, eventually some of these measures were ordered and implemented here in the US. But, lacking anything even resembling a master plan, all this was done very late, and in a horribly inefficient, fragmented fashion, in a climate of confusion, disorientation and –at times– sheer panic.

Panic led to an extreme response

And the panic created by a disease with no cure and catastrophic predictions about millions of dead Americans, unless we closed everything down, led to the fateful decision to shut the country down, with full knowledge of the incredible damage to the economy that this decision would imply, including a slew of bankruptcies, and tens of millions of suddenly unemployed workers.

Let me make this clear. It did not have to be this way. We closed America down because, at the time, with no deployable countermeasures available and a deadly disease spreading rapidly, there seemed to be no other viable choice, if the main goal was to save American lives.

And, again, there was no other practical choice because the US had no deployable countermeasures, no contagion mitigation systems that could be activated. Here is the sad truth. When coronavirus arrived, America was literally a sitting duck, completely unprepared and therefore defenseless.

Amazingly, this means that America, the world’s leading economic power, leader in medical research and information technology, had not thought that a pandemic could occur here, and therefore had done essentially nothing to prepare for it. As a result, when coronavirus hit, the US had no workable tools to slow down the advancing pandemic, except for quarantines and lockdowns — public health countermeasures first deployed in Europe in the Middle Ages, at a time in which public officials literally had no other remedies.

Taiwan, South Korea and Germany had systems

In contrast, other governments over time had developed pandemic preparedness plans, and they activated them –immediately, as soon as news of the pandemic originating in Wuhan, China spread.

In Taiwan the government had a system in place (created in the aftermath of the SARS pandemic in 2003) that was immediately set into action when the Taipei government realized that something bad was happening in China, back in December 2019.

In South Korea, almost overnight, the government deployed a robust virus containment strategy based on massive testing and subsequent isolation of all positive individuals.

In Germany, a national and regional network of testing facilities sprang into action, almost immediately. As a result, Germany, to date, has by far the lowest number of fatalities per unit of population compared to the rest of Europe.

Because they had robust and tested “damage limitation strategies”, these countries had tools to limit contagion. Their number of fatalities is quite low, despite no cure and no vaccine. Which is to say that, unlike the US, other governments had thought about the possibility of a pandemic and had therefore funded and put in place policies and countermeasures that helped them contain the damage. If they could do this, so could we. The fact that we did not is a huge stain on America, the country that is supposedly ahead of everyone in innovation, science and high tech.

Early warning system would have contained the pandemic

Let me be clear. A US early warning system would not –I repeat, would not– have prevented this virus for which there is no cure from reaching the US and infecting people. However, a sophisticated early warning system, (which includes the ability to learn as early as possible about an unfolding epidemic anywhere in the world, and then quickly track and isolate positive individuals in order to prevent or at least slow down contagion), combined with prepositioned stockpiles of medical emergency material, (masks, protective gear, ventilators, field hospitals easily deployable by the military in high incidence localities), most certainly would have slowed down this pandemic, while reducing its spread and scope. Which is to say that, if America had had a robust pandemic plan in place, we could have avoided shutting down almost the entire economy, while probably saving thousands of lives, even in the absence of a cure or vaccine.

Millions of victims?

As we had none of the rapid reaction tools in place, overtaken by panic, federal and state policy-makers concluded that the only choice before them was between condemning literally millions of Americans to a certain death caused by an advancing coronavirus, or closing down almost the entire US economy in order to slow down contagions, this way preventing a horrible human tragedy. And so, lacking any plausible alternatives, Washington and most of the 50 States decided to literally close down the biggest economic power on Earth.

What is terribly wrong with this scenario is that this “either we kill people, or we kill the economy” choice could have been avoided by having a tried and tested contagion prevention national plan in place that would have worked like a very powerful shock absorber. This is what Taiwan, South Korea and Germany, among others, did –rather successfully.

Of course, as I said above, even if America had been properly organized to react to this pandemic, there would have been some contagion, many deaths, huge economic damage and enormous dislocation resulting in a recession. Hence the need for the US Government to intervene with emergency funds. But, for sure, both the economic dislocation and the emergency interventions would not have been on this scale, (almost three trillion dollars!), because the damage, while still very substantial, would have been far more limited.

Are we going to learn from this disaster?

I really hope we learnt our lessons here; even if at the cost of more than 50,000 lives, and counting; and close to three trillion dollars in emergency aid to corporations and individuals, and counting. I hope that by now our elected leaders have realized that the US cannot afford to have essentially no workable rapid reaction system in place when it comes to low probability but extremely high risk public health occurrences.

Of course, it will cost money to set up and maintain the necessary early warning and rapid reaction infrastructure, trained workforce and chain of command.

But this strategic investment will be only a fraction of the close to three trillion dollars we have already spent so far, not to mention the fact that early detection will give us the ability to save thousands of lives by preventing out of control contagion via timely quarantines and other targeted isolation measures.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




US Must Have a Plan To Face Future Health Crises

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – Here is the hard truth. America had no plan designed for national health emergencies that could be activated as soon as policy-makers realized the threat of coronavirus. There was almost nothing in place. There was no “early warning system” that would sound the alarm. There was no structure, no prepositioned equipment that could be deployed to crisis points. No well oiled chain of command.

No plan

In a word, there was no comprehensive, tried and tested plan that would integrate public health monitoring, data gathering. There were no models to assess the possible economic impact of public health countermeasures. Furthermore, there were no stockpiles of emergency materials, and no proven and tested logistics system to be activated in order to deliver such material to crisis areas. Sadly, whatever has been done so far, it is all about “make it up as you go”.

It did not have to be this way. By now we know that Taiwan, for instance, reacted promptly and effectively to the very same crisis, because they had a robust plan in place. The plan was generated after the big scare caused by SARS, another respiratory illness that originated from China back in 2003. If Taiwan could create a plan, so could we. There is no excuse for having essentially almost nothing in place.

Rely on what the doctors say

In this catastrophic leadership void, by default, policy-makers sought the counsel and advice of the subject matter experts: i.e. the top national medical authorities. And the medical experts did the best they could on the basis of the extremely limited knowledge they had about this coronavirus.

Confronted with a rapidly expanding global epidemic caused by an unknown pathogen for which there is no treatment or vaccine, the medical authorities, after having minimized the extent of the public health threat, eventually gave what they thought was the best prudent advice.

If the government really wanted to stop this epidemic –they counseled– then it had to order a nationwide, drastic quarantine regime covering as many people as possible. This is only known remedy to stop or slow down contagion. In other words: “Shut down the US economy for…as long as it takes”.

If you want to stop contagion, this is reasonable and prudent public health advice. Except that the medical authorities did not even try to balance the public health advantages of “social distancing” against the colossal economic damage caused by shutting down almost the entire country.

Worst case scenarios fueled panic

At the same time, the same medical authorities, trying to play it safe, gave prognostications about contagion and fatalities based on worst case scenarios. Until not too long ago, they were talking about possibly millions of Americans dead as a result of coronavirus. Imagine that. Millions of Americans would die because of a new disease for which there is no cure.

While we were treated with scary scenarios of millions of dead Americans, the news media wittingly or unwittingly fanned the flames of a growing national panic. The 24/7 news was all about the relentless growth of the pandemic. It was all about semi-desperate doctors and nurses working impossible long shifts in overcrowded hospitals facing a tsunami of severely ill patients, while lacking even basic protective gear for their staff. Not to mention lack of beds and critical equipment, while suppliers struggled to meet unprecedented demand.

Country in chaos

So, the general impression was that America was in chaos. We were confronted with a never-happened-before historic calamity that might kill millions, while we had nothing to fight it, except for quarantines, a physical isolation remedy first deployed by the Republic of Venice during the Plague of 1347.

From the standpoint of policy-makers, if almost certain death for millions is the end game unless we quarantine America, then even the most drastic jobs-killing measures seemed sensible. Thinking about how to save the economy when everybody around you may be positive and soon enough intubated, with tens of thousands ending up dead, seemed stupid.

Catching our breath

Now, a few months into this crisis, we are beginning to catch our breath. National and state authorities, after having thrown trillions of dollars to corporations and individuals in an effort to salvage a shuttered US economy, are at least beginning to look at how we can safely reopen, in increments, our semi-comatose 20 trillion dollar economy. At the same time, based on various accounts, there is reasonable hope that some kind of treatment and, down the line a vaccine, will “soon” become available.

We must have a plan

It did not have to go this way. As the case of Taiwan demonstrates, even without a cure or a vaccine, it could have been possible to plan for such an epidemic, this way minimizing confusion and frictions, and possibly saving many lives.

During the Cold War, when nuclear war was a distinct possibility, US Presidents relied on the ultra-secret SIOP, or Single Integrated Operational Plan. Good or bad as they were, periodically updated SIOPS tried to created a comprehensive scenario that would capture “everything” in case of a possible all out nuclear conflict; so that the Commander in Chief would have the opportunity to see “the whole picture” before making critical decisions most likely leading to unprecedented destruction and millions of lives lost.

On a similar note, after the first oil shock of 1973-74, the US and other oil consumer countries created the International Energy Agency, IEA. The IEA would serve as an information-sharing clearing house linking oil importers and as an energy policy coordination body, in case another major supply disruption would take place at any time in the future.

Furthermore, the US decided to create a massive Strategic Petroleum Reserve, (SPR) essentially a huge stockpile of crude oil that could be released into the US economy in case of a sudden crude oil shortage caused by war or other occurrences. The IEA and the SPR could not prevent another oil supply disruption. But they would mitigate the impact of any supply cuts.

Public health is national security

Well, it’s time for America to develop the public health equivalent of an IEA, SPR, and nuclear war SIOPs. I am not suggesting that the goal here is to gain the capacity to predict, prevent and quickly defeat any possible public health emergency. That is impossible.

However, just as we did with the horrible nuclear war scenarios, or the possibility of devastating oil supply cuts, as a nation, as a minimum we must have reliable early warning systems that will alert policy-makers when something unusual happens anywhere in the world on the public health front. And we should have the “data fusion centers” that will help all the experts and policy-makers, so that they will know what is actually going on in “real time”. With the advantage of timely intelligence, then public officials would be able to properly direct prepositioned equipment to the proper locations, while immediately ordering the appropriate contagion limitation countermeasures.

Balancing public health and economic survival

Furthermore, America needs to have comprehensive plans envisaging different scenarios when it comes to balancing public health countermeasures and the economic impact of such countermeasures. Elected leaders need to be able to see the implications and consequences of difficult decisions.

Elected leaders are the policy-makers in charge

Policy-makers relying on various inputs are the ultimate decision-makers. It makes no sense for elected leaders to say: “We do not know much about this, therefore we shall follow the advice of the medical experts”. Medical experts are not elected policy-makers. Of course, their input is essential. But they are not economists or public administration experts. They see a critical piece of this troublesome reality. But not the whole picture.

Indeed, at what point does the remedy –shutting everything down in order to prevent contagion– becomes worse than the disease in terms of destruction of businesses and employment? Policy-makers should do their best to save lives. But they should be able to assess the danger of killing the national economy against the worthy humanitarian goal of saving lives.

This is why policy-makers need real time data that will help build credible scenarios. All this should be part of a comprehensive, periodically updated plan.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




An Already Sick Nation Crushed By Coronavirus

By Paolo von Schirach

WASHINGTON – We now know that most of the Americans who need to be hospitalized and eventually die on account of coronavirus are elderly (and sometimes middle-aged) people already in poor health who often must take medications that have the negative side effect of weakening their immune system. In other words, those who are already sick or in poor health–and there are millions in America– are the primary coronavirus targets and, sadly, often the victims.

Sick people are coronavirus victims

Oversimplifying a bit, this horrible coronavirus pandemic exposes the inconvenient reality that America, over time, has become a nation of people in mediocre or poor health. Millions, senior citizens in particular, are affected by chronic diseases. They are propped up by multiple medications aimed at lessening the health impact of various maladies. It is very clear that already unhealthy people, often on various medications that often suppress the body’s immunity, are the primary victims of this virus.

Regarding the overall health conditions of seniors citizens in America, according to some health care experts, this is just the way it is. Old people get sick, and doctors help them by prescribing medicines that help them live longer. This is the best that we can do in dealing with an aging population.

Old and healthy

Well, guess what, it does not have to be this way! No, it is not true that when you go past 60 years your general health conditions inevitably start to decline and you fall prey, as a matter of course, to a variety of diseases that naturally come with old age. This is simply not true.

Many physicians, gerontologists, nutrition and physical exercise experts for years have been telling us what most of us do not like to hear. Most of us can stay reasonably healthy even as we age, provided that we diligently follow basic nutrition and exercise habits. Of course, we are not immortal, and we shall get sick. But if we do take good care of ourselves we shall live a longer and reasonably healthy life.

Bad habits, sick people

A few years ago I read a book (one out of many on this subject) titled “Younger Next Year”. One of the co-authors, Dr. Henry S. Lodge, is a geriatric care physician. He was prompted to co-write this book after having observed how the overall health conditions of his patients deteriorated massively and almost suddenly after they hit 60. For most of them, it was not a gentle slope. It was an almost catastrophic and rapid decline, with multiple diseases taking over, followed by death.

It did not take him very long to realize that most of his suddenly sick patients had embraced in their younger years unhealthy lifestyles whose cumulative outcome as they entered old age was a fragile immune system, and the propensity to develop often fatal cardiovascular diseases, not to mention type 2 diabetes, with all its negative consequences, and other ailments.

Good nutrition and exercise will do it

This book does not sell the silly idea that we can stay magically young and healthy forever. We do get old, and therefore we do become more fragile, and eventually we die. But we can stay healthy as we age. We can avoid maladies resulting from unhealthy or outright destructive personal habits. We can and should eat healthy food and engage in regular, moderate exercise as a way to stay healthy and fit. The critical thing is to embrace sooner rather than later a healthy lifestyle regime and stick to it.

Advice not followed

Sadly, despite this book and many others advising us on how to stay reasonably healthy even as we age, most Americans do not follow this guidance. And the cumulative result of bad personal habits pursued by millions, when it comes to nutrition and exercise, are well known.

Our overall national health statistics are pretty horrible. We are the developed country that spends by far the most on health care –about 18% of GDP, almost double what other rich countries spend. But we have very little to show for this massive expenditure, much of it going to treat millions affected by chronic (and for the most part, avoidable) diseases.

Our life expectancy is mediocre, and actually declining. A staggering 30% of Americans (that is about 100 million people) are obese or overweight. It is well known that obesity (a self-inflicted wound in most cases) is the precursor to cardiovascular diseases, type two diabetes, and more.

What’s the connection with coronavirus?

Well, what’s the connection between all this and the severe impact of coronavirus in America in terms of large numbers of hospitalizations and death? Very simple. We know that this virus (as well as others) finds particularly fertile ground in people whose immune systems have already been degraded or compromised by chronic illnesses and/or medications that suppress some critically important immune functions. Sadly, on account of the way we chose to live, millions of Americans today fit this profile. Hence the large number of hospitalizations and unfortunately deaths during this coronavirus pandemic.

Wellness is prevention

I am not suggesting here that if we, as a nation, had started following decades ago the advice provided by so many wellness experts about the benefits of healthy nutrition and regular exercise, we would not have a coronavirus pandemic, at this time. We would still have it.

However, I am suggesting that this epidemic would have been far less severe, with far fewer hospitalizations and deaths; simply because many, many more elderly (and also younger) Americans would have been in basic good or at least better health, with much stronger immune systems, and therefore better able to fight the virus.

Wellness practices are not about long life magic potions. They are about learning how to take good care of ourselves following the advice given to us by experts who know what it takes to preserve our bodies and the natural immunity defenses that a healthy system creates.

Public Health Officials need to teach how to stay in good health

Needless to say, none of this matters right now, as we are in the middle of the pandemic. But I sincerely hope that, as soon as all this will be over and we will be able to calm down, all our Public Health Authorities will do their very best to explain to the Nation that staying in good health matters –a lot.

There are other diseases. There will be other pandemics. Lacking proven medications and/or vaccines, a healthy body with good immunity is and will continue to be our best defense. And remember that there is no vaccine against obesity. What you choose to eat, every day, will determine your weight and eventually your health.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




How Can We Prepare For The Next Pandemic?

By Paolo von Schirach

WASHINGTON – Belatedly, all countries, including the most advanced, decided to adopt quarantines and “social distancing” as the only effective methods to slow down and hopefully stop the coronavirus contagion.

Better than doing nothing

While this is way better than doing nothing, it is somewhat disheartening that today –in the year 2020– the only contagion prevention tool in our tool box is the quarantine — a contagion prevention measure first employed as official public health policy by the Republic of Venice in 1347, during the Black Plague.

Quarantines are old remedies

Indeed, the English term “quarantine“, comes from the Venetian “quarantena“, a slight modification from the Italian “quarantina” which simply means “forty days“. At the time, Venice was already a major international port. In today’s terms, we would call the thriving maritime republic a Global Commerce Hub.

Venice depended entirely on commerce. It could not stop it, because it was the source of its gigantic wealth. But the Venetians did not want to be killed by epidemics brought in by sailors either. Therefore, the Venetian government during the 1347 Plague epidemic instituted the policy of isolating arriving ships and crews for forty days, (“the quarantine”), because they had realized that sailors and traders coming from foreign lands carried deadly diseases.

Dedicated hospitals

Well, guess what, quarantines worked, at least to some extent. Indeed, the Venetian example was soon adopted by other major port cities in the Mediterranean and beyond. The Venetians also were first in creating ad hoc health facilities for those who carried infectious diseases. Passengers coming from places known to have infections were forced to move to the island of Santa Maria di Nazareth, known as “Nazarethum”, that soon became known as “Lazzaretto”, or “Lazareth”. Besides, the Venetians created high level magistrates, called Public Health Procurators, whose job was the enforcement of the public health measures on which the very survival of the Republic depended.

Prevent diseases from crossing land borders

Later on, The Habsburg Empire created a massive system of military garrisons and fortifications along its long border with the Ottoman Empire. This system included dedicated spaces in the border areas whose main purpose was to quarantine anybody crossing into the Austrian Empire. The quarantine rules were clear and inflexible. Breaking them resulted in summary execution.

We had nothing

Well, fast forward to the present coronavirus epidemic, and we immediately realize that we are –belatedly and often half-heartedly– picking up the same anti-contagion tools first developed several hundreds years ago by the Venetians… simply because….we have nothing else!

Sadly, Western medicine has been blindsided by its own great successes. We defeated TB, smallpox, polio, and more. We have developed vaccines and treatments. We have antibiotics and what not. Therefore, somewhat superficially, we believed that we had won the infectious diseases war. Nothing more to worry about.

Bill Gates’ warnings

Strong warnings, such as the one articulated by Bill Gates in 2015 after the Ebola crisis in West Africa, were ignored. Gates did say –loud and clear– that Ebola was a Red Flag. A major pandemic coming to the US was a distinct possibility. And he did also say that we needed to prepare by creating early warning systems and well coordinates response mechanisms (including stockpiles of medical equipment) and the teams to manage them. He also suggested that the response mechanisms had to include a prominent role for the military.

Yes, Bill Gates did say all this, back in 2015.

Well, nobody paid any attention. Look, if we had listened to Gates and others who also warned about possible pandemics we could not have avoided this coronavirus pandemic, simply because, to date, we have no proven cure and no vaccine.

However, we could have dealt with this massive emergency in a smarter and much more efficient way, most likely saving many lives that have been lost simply because we were caught off guard. We know now that we had no system to quickly detect coronavirus virus carriers, so that they could be promptly isolated.

Taiwan has a system

The case of Taiwan’s public health early warning system proves this point. Taiwan learnt its painful lesson from a previous major public health scare. In the aftermath of SARS in 2003, (another deadly respiratory disease originating from China), Taiwan created a sophisticated early detection system, with dedicated professionals supervising it.

As soon as the Taiwanese authorities realized that something abnormal was happening in Mainland China at the end of 2019, they activated all their systems. Well, it may not be perfect; but Taiwan managed to quickly identify all or most coronavirus infected people, so that they could be promptly isolated, before they could spread the virus. But Taiwan could do all this only because it could activate a robust medical response mechanism it had spent years to create.

Guess what: prevention works!

US was unprepared

Here in the US, the list of what we did not have and of the systems that we could not activate simply because they did not exist is depressingly long. I really hope that this gigantic public health and now economic disaster, partly due to nature and partly due to our complete lack of any meaningful preparedness, will teach us a lesson.

We need reliable early warning

To begin with, the US and the World need much more sophisticated early warning systems. Theoretically, this should be the mission of the World Health Organization, WHO. But the record shows that the WHO is just another lumbering international bureaucracy, rarely ahead of the curve when something major happens. With all the talent in IT, superfast Supercomputers, Artificial Intelligence and indeed medical science that we have across the globe, setting up better early warning and crisis management systems is just a matter of will and coordination. We have the tools. Let’s organize them in a productive fashion.

New York City is under resourced?

Along similar lines, governments should create stockpiles of medical tools and related distribution systems that could be quickly mobilized in an emergency. It is a disgrace that New York City, the World’s financial capital, did not have the emergency facilities that could be quickly set up, along with all the medical devices necessary to deal with a sudden epidemic.

Emergency facilities are now springing up almost everywhere in the US. And this is good. This activism proves that America is resilient. However, we can no longer afford to be good only at reacting. We must learn to be proactive.

Yes, investing billions of dollars in facilities and supplies that may or may not be called into action sounds like a waste of money. And yet, if we look at the colossal economic damage caused by the need to shut everything down in order to stop contagion, all of a sudden, investing even a few hundreds billions in preventative measures looks truly cost-effective.

Those governments that lack the economic means to set emergency stockpiles should be connected to a global network that would immediately spring into action and deliver medical assistance where needed.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Science and International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




Wanted: A Coronavirus Manhattan Project

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – Regarding coronavirus, so far public policy in most Western countries focused on monetary and fiscal interventions. They are aimed at mitigating the disastrous economic impact of the government-mandated freezing of most activities and people to people interactions in order to stop contagion. But it should be clear to all that even vast amounts of money thrown at the US and other major economies will not be enough to stabilize a catastrophic situation caused by the “closing down”, for an indefinite period, of most advanced countries.

The limits of economic stimulus

A giant stimulus package, no matter how big, is at best only temporary relief. By now, we begin to understand that trying to save lives by shutting everything down is causing and will cause catastrophic economic devastation.

With virtually “everything” closed, millions of American workers are suddenly out of a job. Furthermore, in the US thousands of shaky companies, kept alive (before this pandemonium began) by low interest loans, will go bankrupt. Without any income, they are unable to meet their payments obligations to banks and bondholders. And when they go under, sadly they will bring down with them managers, workers and their families, shareholders, creditors, suppliers and more. The oil sector, battered by the global slowdown, is now on life support due to crude at $ 25 per barrel or less, the result of the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. And this is just a partial list.

Focus on a cure

So, since we need to keep the drastic people movement restrictions in order to prevent contagion and government-delivered economic relief is not enough, what else can be done?

Well, invest more –much more– where the solution to this crisis will be eventually found: in the laboratories and research facilities where scientists are already busy trying to find a cure and a vaccine for the illness caused by this coronavirus. I am sure that much is being done. But, we simply need to do more. May be much more.

Issuing checks to battered US unemployed workers and credit guarantees to companies in trouble provides important but only temporary relief. Investing the same money, or larger sums, in state of the art research aimed at finding a vaccine and/or cure for this coronavirus is a much smarter policy.

We need a Manhattan Project for coronavirus

We need an “All Hands on Deck” approach to this pandemic. We need a medical equivalent of the Manhattan Project, the secret American effort to develop an atomic bomb during WWII. The Manhattan Project probably looked like a fool’s errand at the time. The task was: invent something new and revolutionary, all on the basis of theories lacking any empirical verification. Some who knew about the secret program viewed it as a fantasy, a waste of time and money.

And yet, it worked!

While the Manhattan Project was about destruction, not saving lives, the use of the bomb secretly developed by the Manhattan Projects scientists against Japan resulted in an immediate ending of the war in the Pacific. This way, millions of lives were saved. The alternative would have been a US landing in Japan and then an enormous military undertaking leading to the conquest of the entire country, inch by inch, through a bloody fight against an enemy that would simply not let go.

A medical call to arms

Simply stated, today we need a “Manhattan Project equivalent”, a historic medical call to arms. As we engage in this massive undertaking, we should be comforted by the fact that, unlike the Manhattan Project scientists who were trying to invent something entirely new, we already have extremely valuable resources in the US and other Western countries.

Indeed, nowadays, we have great scientific talent in America, Europe, and Asia. There are thousands of skilled researchers, state of the art laboratories, sophisticated research tools and futuristic technologies unimaginable only a few years ago.

A clear statement from the top

What we urgently need now is a clear message from the President of the United States and all key policy-makers around the world: finding a cure is the number one priority. Key world leaders need to reassure all the capable scientists who are already working on coronavirus research that they will get all the support they will need.

“This is a global emergency. No red tape or delays. You will get –now– whatever you may need in terms of extra funding, additional staff, new equipment, shared platforms and what not, in order to facilitate and expedite your extremely valuable work”.

A well funded and properly coordinated effort, with easy exchange of findings, data and all relevant information among scientists in different countries, would constitute a modern equivalent of the Manhattan Project. Much of the critical research and experimentation work on the coronavirus is well underway. But policy-makers should elevate this critically important effort to the very top of the national and indeed global agenda, while providing all the assistance that may be required.

We shall prevail

I just cannot believe that with all the existing human and technological resources –if properly funded and coordinated– we shall not be able to find a cure that will beat this virus. Of course, we do not know the timeline. It may take a few months, or may be longer. But this is the way to go. We are way too smart to be confined to a public health policy option that prescribes killing all the Western economies in order to save lives.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Science and International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




The Coronavirus Recession and Elections

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – After a rather bad start, President Donald Trump is now doing a much better job in his efforts to convince America that his administration is doing all what is necessary to contain the coronavirus epidemic, while reducing its adverse impact on the US economy.

Economic measures

Some economic measures aimed at alleviating the damage and the stress to companies and workers seem appropriate. However, you can bet anything that the initial testing fiasco will be pointed out by Joe Biden and all Democrats between now and November as clear evidence of Trump’s incompetence at a time of a great national crisis.

As things will probably get worse, with more economic damage caused by the disruptions to normal activities inevitably following the coronavirus containment measures, (flights canceled, sports events, conventions and shows canceled, schools closed and more), can Trump blame the inevitable US economic recession on an uncontrollable epidemic? Will he be able to argue –convincingly– that he did all the right things, at the right time against this emergency? Will worried, if not panicky, Americans believe him?

Trump will get low grades

I doubt on Trump getting good grades on his coronavirus crisis handling. Of course the severity of the judgement will really depend on how long this epidemic will linger. Still, if we go into the November elections as the US economy is still caught in a downdraft, while the US health system is overwhelmed, or worse paralyzed by too many sick patients arriving at the same time, this is really bad news for President Trump. No matter what, at elections time, blaming the incumbent for whatever is going wrong in America is the knee-jerk reaction.

On the other hand, if the worst will soon be over, and the public will see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, then Trump may have a better chance at getting re-elected. But it will not be easy.

Not a popular President

Indeed, let’s not forget that this is not a popular President. Even while the economy was doing very well, with GDP growth at 2.5% or above, and with the lowest unemployment rate in half a century, Trump’s favorables never –I repeat never– went above 50%.

Of course, we know that this President has a large and fiercely loyal core group of strong supporters. They are and will be with him –no matter what. But, as important as these supporters are, they are not the majority of America’s voters, not even close.

Return to normalcy

If Joe Biden, (assuming here that eventually he will get the Democratic Party nomination), will be able to portray himself as the “Uniter“, the seasoned leader who can bring opposing factions together, he may get the nod not just from the Democrats but also from the millions of independents who are now seeking normalcy and a steady hand in Washington.

From this perspective, being part of the much maligned “Washington Establishment” will be a good thing for Biden. He will be able to say that he knows how to work productively with all lawmakers, irrespective of party, as well as many diverse constituencies in order to “get things done” for the American people.

In 2016 Americans opted for an outsider

In 2016 being part of the “Washington Establishment” was a bad stain. Trump emerged from literally nowhere largely on the basis of his starkly different resume. Indeed, he was not a professional politician.

And this is what millions of Americans, disappointed in the performance of the deeply entrenched political class, really liked back then. In Trump they saw the new champion who would upset the Washington self-dealing racket, (“Drain the swamp”), let fresh air in, and make the US Government finally work for the forgotten little guy.

Well, Trump’s got elected on the basis of his promises to do things very differently. But he assembled a mixed record in the execution of his unorthodox agenda. And his relatively low favorables indicate that most Americans, having tried the non politician in 2016, would seriously consider more traditional offerings in 2020.

Low favorables before this crisis

This mood shift back to the center became palpable after Biden regained his Democratic front runner status in the wake of the South Carolina Democratic Party Primary, held before the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic. And Biden’s rise has become irresistible as the country is in a panic. Overall, I believe that this health crisis is helping Biden, not Trump.

Again, remember that Trump’s leadership credentials were already questioned by many before coronavirus hit the US. The messy way things have been handled until recently did not contribute to change the critics’ minds.

The miracle would be to be able to present Trump’s coronavirus response as a Churchillian moment of heroic valor in front of an unprecedented adversity confronting America. I am sure that lots of communications specialists are already working on how to shape this story in order to provide a positive narrative. But somehow I do not believe that it is going to work.

Either way, Trump is in trouble

So, here is the thing. If this coronavirus emergency continues, and possibly gets worse between now and November, then Trump is in real trouble. If it goes away very soon, and America gets back to work, without too much damage to the economy, he is still in trouble on account of his low favorables.

Joe Biden’s moment?

America’s mood changed. No more wrecking balls, please. Many voters now seem to crave consensus builders who can deliver incremental reforms, hopefully with with some measure of bipartisan support.

Gaffe prone, a bit shop worn Joe Biden may not be the ideal champion, but as of now he is the man (almost) the entire Democratic Party is betting on. And, come November, millions of independents will probably agree.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Science and International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




The Economic Damage Of Coronavirus

By Paolo von Schirach

WASHINGTON – The spreading coronavirus epidemic has already created an enormous challenge for the global economy. This epidemic is caused by an unknown new virus for which human beings have no immunity. For this reason, while this illness is very similar to a seasonal flu, its mortality rate is significantly higher. Hence the global scare.

Widespread restrictions

To date, there are no medical remedies for this new illness. Lacking other remedies, the countermeasures, beginning in China, (where it all started), have focused on lockdowns, quarantines and interruption of travel to and from the regions and countries affected. The goal is to slow down the spreading of the disease. Still, while this may be a sensible prevention policy from a public health standpoint, the economic impact has been devastating. Large parts of the Chinese economy have essentially been frozen by all these restrictions.

Frozen economy in China

Think about it. Lockdown affecting tens of millions of workers means that factories and offices are closed, workers do not work, goods are not produced, orders are not filled. Restaurants and hotels are empty, airlines cannot fly.

This prolonged work stoppage will amount to catastrophic economic losses for China, whose economy –let us keep in mind– was already rather anemic prior to this crisis, in some measure due to the negative impact of the tariffs war with the US.

Economic contagion

And this is not just affecting China. The reality of globalization means that we already have widespread economic contagion, even in countries only mildly affected (so far) by this new disease. Indeed, while relatively unscathed by the epidemic, the US is already suffering economically.

And this why. All US multinationals, and other smaller companies, depend on complex (and, it turns out, very vulnerable) supply chains centered in Asia. As the Chinese economy freezes, many US companies do not get their products delivered, and/or do not get critical parts and components for products assembled in the US. This is costly, and it negatively affected production schedules.

Sectors already affected

Beyond that, certain sectors of the US economy, such as leisure and business travel, hotels and airlines are already affected in a major way due to all the travel restrictions imposed by the authorities.

Furthermore, we can expect that the US oil industry will suffer devastating losses. With industrial production down in Asia, global oil demand collapsed and so did benchmark oil prices. The large and expanding (thanks to shale drilling) US oil industry supports dozens of medium sized companies and tens of thousands of high paying jobs. Many of these jobs are now in jeopardy. If the oil prices slump continues, expect major losses and bankruptcies in the US oil patch.

Additional contagion

The fact that new points of contagion have exploded in South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran worries markets even more. These developments lead all experts to conclude that the coronavirus epidemic is now out of China, and it cannot be contained. Therefore, we should expect more countermeasures in the shape of travel restrictions and lockdown, and consequently additional harm to the global economy. Hence the financial markets panic and the deep losses experienced by Wall Street (the worst since 2008) in the last few days.

The road ahead

If we could have the reassurance that these extreme “Coronavirus Containment Measures”, while severe, were only temporary, then the world economy could adjust, absorb this hit, and get ready to restart soonest.

But the problem is that we do not know how long this epidemic will last. And this allows for the worst scenarios to proliferate. After the 2008 financial crisis exploded, the panic was caused by lack of knowledge regarding the extent of the financial shortfalls. How big were the losses for the banking sector? How many mortgage companies would go under? Who would be capable of surviving? The market panic was largely due to lack of reliable data.

However, the massive liquidity injection by the US Fed into the US economy, combined with massive rate cuts, helped to reassure the markets; and they gradually re-established confidence in the system. After those beneficial interventions, climbing back to normality was certainly painful; but everybody agreed that it was doable.

How long will this last?

In this coronavirus case, there is no clear end game. The health experts have no reassuring answers for this medical emergency. Lacking a cure, keeping infected individuals and areas isolated and blocking altogether travel and events where large numbers of people congregate seems a sensible way to slow down or contain the spread of this virus. The problem is that these prevention measures cause enormous economic losses, as the recent developments in China, South Korea, Japan and Italy clearly indicate.

More contagion, more restrictions

Should the epidemic spread from Italy to the rest of Europe in major way, and from Europe to other parts of the world, assuming similar restrictive policies adopted by additional countries, the economic damage caused by widespread freezing of production and world commerce would be incalculable.

For instance, in Iran, a severely under resourced country, the epidemic most probably cannot be contained. Will the virus travel from there to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa? Scary scenario; but not impossible.

Without
some good news, such as new data showing a global contagion slowdown and/or the
announcement of a cure or vaccine that could be quickly administered, it is
difficult to see how markets can stabilize and go back to normal.

Last but not least, should the epidemic spread to the US in a major way, (it is already here), all bets are off. If America stops, the world stops.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Science and International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




America Unprepared To Deal With A Pandemic

By Paolo von Schirach

WASHINGTON – For very understandable reasons, millions of Americans are now focused on the progress of the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic and on any assessments/prognostications about its virulence and ability to expand in a significant way beyond China.

Low threat

As of now, nothing much has happened in the US. The only known cases of coronavirus are related to very few individuals who contracted the disease while in Wuhan. In one case, the husband of a woman who got infected while visiting China got it from her after she returned. Not surprising.

So, no reason for panic, it seems.

Bad practices when it comes to basic hospital hygiene

True. for the moment at least, we are not facing any coronavirus emergency, here in the US. However, as some noted experts in epidemics have indicated, this potential crisis should be a wake up call to face the reality of the grossly inadequate prevention practices that prevail in most American hospitals.

When it comes to basic hygiene, most US health facilities do not follow elementary precautions, and so hospitals have become the breeding ground for viruses and deadly bacteria. It may sound crazy, but, according to the data, about 70,000 Americans die every year because of diseases contracted while in the hospital. And this –let me stress– occurs under “normal” circumstances, without the pressure and confusion caused by a sudden pandemic.

Tragic but preventable

Think of that. This is tragic. But almost completely preventable, assuming the adoption of and compliance with basic prevention and safety protocols. I have no idea as to why health authorities, hospital managers and other senior people in charge of medical care in America are not doing much to reverse this awful state of affairs.

This is not rocket science. This is about making sure that, while in the hospital, patients are properly isolated, so that they will not communicate potentially deadly pathogens to medical personnel and other patients. This is rather elementary. And yet, somehow, it is not done –at least not done on the scale that would be necessary.

For sure, adopting known best practices can be onerous, expensive, and time consuming. You have to create special “airtight” facilities within hospitals. You have to make sure that all relevant health care workers wear protective suites, masks, goggles, and what not, all the time. Yes, this is onerous; but it is the only way we know to prevent the spreading of pathogens within hospitals. It is a sad irony that patients may be and are indeed killed by diseases contracted in the place they went to in the hope and expectation to be healed.

We focus on Wuhan coronavirus, but we ignore basic protocols

So, here is the thing. For the time being, here in America no real threat from the mysterious Wuhan coronavirus, even though the spread of this novel disease is continuing, and therefore we should stay on the alert. This is relatively good news.

However, the ongoing and well documented tragedy of tens of thousands of Americans dying unnecessarily, year after year, because of carelessness and lack of proper hygiene in hospitals across America is a scandal that is essentially ignored.

We are unprepared for a major outbreak

Quite clearly, assuming that nothing or just a little will be done to improve the basic prevention/hygiene conditions within our hospitals, should we face a real health emergency like a virulent pandemic, we would be in real trouble.

Lacking adequate isolation facilities, overwhelmed “dirty” hospitals would become places of contagion, rather than cure. I really hope that all those in charge note all this and start taking action.

Given the state of most of our hospitals, we are not prepared to face a pandemic. Our national disease control policy cannot be just the hope of being lucky.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Science and International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.




Bad Human Behavior Is The New Killer Disease

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – When it comes to taking care of our health, we Americans are really going backwards –in a most spectacular way! We are now well into an era in which by far the main enemy of our health and therefore of the opportunity to live a mostly disease free, long life, are no longer untreatable viruses or bacteria. NO, IT IS US.

We are killing ourselves

Yes, we are slowly killing ourselves. And the silent killers are the terrible dietary habits millions of Americans have mindlessly embraced over the last few decades, (eating and drinking way too much bad stuff), and zero exercise. The manifestation of these truly bad habits are well known. I am talking about our gigantic –and worsening– obesity epidemic, the consequent explosion of type two diabetes and the various ailments caused by this debilitating, chronic disease.

In a nutshell, we are killing ourselves because –as a Nation– we have adopted a horrible diet and no exercise as our norms. The cumulative effect of these terrible habits practiced by millions over many decades is deteriorating health, (more cardiovascular afflictions, more hypertension), for tens of millions of Americans. Of course, these chronic conditions get worse as we age. And If you add to the mix the serious crisis caused by various addictions, (drugs, smoking, alcohol), America –a rich, well resourced country– is getting close to a basket case.

We spend a fortune on health care

And all this is happening notwithstanding the stupendous amount of money the US spends on health care. Indeed, America has the odd record of spending double what other rich countries spend on health, (about 18% of GDP, a staggering amount), with truly mediocre if not bad health statistics when it comes to incidence of chronic diseases and declining life expectancy. (At a little above 79 years, US life expectancy is very close to Cuba, Portugal and Albania).

Science defeated many diseases

As I said, when it comes to our health as a society, we are really going backwards. Think about it. The 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century were all about understanding and then successfully fighting deadly bacteria and viruses that were at the source of often incurable maladies. Finally, cures and vaccines were discovered that could successfully fight back smallpox, tuberculosis, sifilis, pneumonia, and polio.

Public health standards

Closer to our times it became routine, first in developed countries and then progressively elsewhere, to have massive immunization programs, so that infants and children would be protected from many potentially lethal infectious diseases. Furthermore, basic norms of cleanliness were identified and and then taught, such as frequent hand washing with soap, refrigerating perishable food items, and rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them.

At the same time, authorities understood the importance of public hygiene. They started providing treated, clean water to households. They built modern sewage treatment plants, along with modern trash removal services, so that urban waste would not become the breeding ground for bacteria and vermin (such as rats) that could carry and spread disease.

Major victories

These are major victories. Vaccinations, immunizations, the availability of antibiotics, combined with vastly improved standards aimed at safeguarding public health, cut down infant mortality and allowed millions of adults to live longer, healthier lives.

If we fast forward to today, for sure thousands of dedicated scientists keep working on major medical issues, such as various forms of cancer, dementia, Alzheimer, and a plethora of genetic ailments. And this is good. Much, much more needs to be discovered and understood.

US health is declining

That said, if we look at broad US health statistics, we see an enormous paradox. As I said, we conquered major diseases a long time ago. And America spends literally a fortune on various forms of health care delivery, almost double the average of what is devoted to health in other affluent societies. And yet the overall health conditions of the American populace are actually declining on account of the epidemic proportions of ailments such as obesity and type two diabetes caused not by mysterious germs but only by our bad personal habits.

In other words, our declining health is totally self-inflicted.

We know the problem

The sad fact is that everybody with a modicum of education knows exactly why we are dealing with these epidemics. It is all about over eating bad stuff, (mostly processed food, sodas, and too many fatty, sugary snacks), combined with too much alcohol, and lack of even a modicum of physical exercise in our daily routines. And if you add to this already toxic mix millions of Americans addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, and a large variety of drugs, you have the paradoxical picture of a wealthy, reasonably well educated society that is also very sick. This is the really bad news.

It is all rooted in bad habits

But the good news is that this catastrophic deterioration of the overall health conditions of millions of Americans is not about bad luck. It is rooted in our freely adopted BAD HABITS. Habits are not genetic. We learn them, and then we adopt them. And this means that given proper guidance and education, once we realize how toxic these habits are, we can ditch them and embrace new, healthy ones.

Yes, it really is as simple as that. We became accustomed to unhealthy processed foods. We drink rivers of sugary sodas. We eat too much junk food which is mostly fat, sugar and salt. Most of us do not exercise at all. I am not sure how these habits came to be embraced. But is is time to get rid of them. And it is quite possible, even though doing so will require an extensive, focused public education campaign, starting with children, and quite a bit of self-discipline.

Yes, ditching bad habits is a major challenge

I fully recognize that changing the entrenched bad habits of millions of Americans looks too big a task, in fact an impossibility.

And yet it is doable.

We can all learn what a healthy diet is, and then embrace it as our new habit. There is nothing magic or mysterious about it. Fruits and vegetables are good for you. Snack food is not. Plain water is good for you. Green tea is good for you. Sugary sodas are not. Furthermore, once we understand the horrible long-term consequences of a sedentary life, we can all engage in some form of exercise, (walking just 30 minutes a day can be a life changing new habit for mostly sedentary people).

As I said, unless we ditch our truly bad habits, we are slowly killing ourselves, while we waste billions of dollars every year treating mostly preventable diseases that we inflicted on ourselves.

Are you telling me that we cannot do better than that?




Type Two Diabetes Is Preventable, But Nobody Says It

by Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – I recently read a very well researched article on the growing cost of treating millions of diabetics in the United States. It appeared in a major national newspaper and it was written by a well-known public policy scholar. The writer  provided up to date data on the alarmingly large dimension of this disease and how much it costs to the affected individuals, insures and the US Government. The scholar in the end provided his thoughtful policy recommendations.

It is a preventable disease

All in all, a good, balanced piece. Except for one thing. In his article, the author started from the implicit premise that type two diabetes “just happened” in America. It seems that for some (unexplored and unexplained) reasons it came about and has now reached incredibly large proportions. Millions of Americans, including young people, are now its victims.  Now, according to the author, our problem as a society is how to pay for the monstrous and increasing costs of caring for millions of patients. Not a word –repeat, not a word– about the genesis of this explosion, even though it is well known.

Well, this approach to this US health care crisis is totally wrong. I repeat: totally wrong; because it fails to mention how type two diabetes came about and –most fundamentally—that type two diabetes is a preventable disease. Yes, preventable, and this means avoidable. Which is to say that the analysis included in the article is fatally flawed, because it starts from the false premise that this health care crisis just “happened”. The implicit assumption is that, as a nation, we have to accept this reality, and now going forward our job as a society is to figure out how to pay for its immense cost.

The author says: “We have an explosion of a disease that cost billions. Let’s discuss the best way to apportion the cost”. Wrong! A good analyst would ask a very different question:

“Why is it that we are doing nothing to prevent a preventable disease that has now gained monstrous dimensions, this way causing misery to millions of Americans, while burdening the health care systems with billions of dollars in therapies that could be completely avoided”?

Let me clarify.  The ballooning of diabetes in recent years is mostly about type two diabetes. (Type one diabetes is a different story. It has some genetic roots that make certain individuals more susceptible. But the explosion of diabetes in recent years in America is overwhelmingly about type two which has no genetic roots).

Unlike other health care scourges, this is not a conventional epidemic. Type two diabetes is not genetic, and it is not a communicable malady, carried by a virus or bacteria. You do not get type two diabetes because you have been in the proximity of someone who has it.

A consequence of bad life style

Type two diabetes is a pretty horrible chronic disease that manifests itself as a consequence of years of bad eating habits (too much sugar, too many carbohydrates), and bad lifestyle (no exercise).

Which is to say that if most Americans would embrace and sustain a healthy life style, (eat mostly lean proteins including fish, vegetables, fruits, salads, go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, and keep a normal weight), the chances of developing type two diabetes are practically zero.

Just like that? Yes, just like that.

Again, type two diabetes is not genetic, and it is not an epidemic. This is a bad life style disease. The fact that millions of Americans get it and collectively end up spending billions of dollars to treat it does not change any of these facts. It simply means that millions of Americans, regrettably, embraced bad personal habits that caused them to develop type two diabetes while piling up skyrocketing medical costs.

That said, amazingly, almost no one (including the author mentioned above) points that this is a preventable disease while discussing the consequences of the massive increase of type two diabetes cases. And yet, these are well-known facts.

You realize what this means. If people had a chance to be properly educated about the critical importance of a good diet and exercise and consequently changed their eating and exercise habits in order to stay healthy, type two diabetes would practically disappear –with enormous health care cost savings, and immense quality of life gains for millions of diseased people.

It is preventable!

At least
some tell you the real story. The Harvard School of Public Health website explains
that:

“The good news is that prediabetes
and type two diabetes are largely preventable. About 9 in 10 cases in the U.S.
can be avoided by making lifestyle changes. These same changes can also lower
the chances of developing heart disease and some cancers. The key to prevention
can be boiled down to five words: Stay lean and stay active.”

Got that? At least 9 out of 10 cases are preventable. The secret? Five words: “Stay lean and stay active”. Yes, that’s all there is to it.

And it is also reversible!

And this is not the whole story. Type two diabetes is actually reversible. Not always. But in many, if not most cases you can get rid of it.

Here is what US News recently reported:

“It’s not impossible at all to
reverse diabetes,” says Dr. Peter Arvan, chief of the division of
metabolism, endocrinology and diabetes at the University of Michigan.
Certainly, though, experts are quick to point out that often what it takes to
do so, such as wholesale changes to completely alter the way one eats and
shifting one’s schedule to prioritize exercise, can be challenging to say the
least.”

“Sometimes diabetes remission is
achieved following bariatric weight loss surgery. But for the majority, it’s
intensive changes to a diet, such as consuming lots of fruits and veggies and
complex carbs and little sugar, and accompanying weight loss that seems to be a
core driver in lowering blood-sugar.”

“Of course there are a lot of
patients who have difficulty complying with those lifestyle changes,”
Arvan says. “It is not the case that reversing their diabetes is the one
and only thing that’s on that person’s mind all day long.” So the same
struggles people may have in properly controlling diabetes can dog even loftier
goals of achieving remission.”

It is imperative to change lifestyle

So, according to this eminent physician, the main obstacle to getting rid of this nasty disease is the willingness on the part of the patients to completely change their lifestyle. Difficult, perhaps. But not an impossible task, if the affected individuals are properly guided and counseled by nutritionists and doctors.

So, given the fact that we can both prevent and reverse this nasty disease, why is it that we do not have well-crafted public education campaigns aimed at explaining the critical value of good nutrition and regular exercise? Why are we not teaching “wellness” in America?

As a nation we certainly have the skills and the resources to do this. We did launch massive education campaigns when it came to raising awareness about the horrible health consequences of smoking.

No interest in promoting wellness

If we are into conspiracy theories, we could argue that not creating prevention programs focusing on wellness education aimed at the general public is in fact deliberate. Indeed, it is very much in the financial interest of the health care industry, (pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and doctors), not to teach anybody about how to adopt a healthy nutrition program, while engaging in moderate physical activities.

How so? Well, if you think about it, this type two diabetes explosion is really a big money bonanza for the health care sector. If you are a pharmaceutical company that makes and sells insulin, (the medication prescribed to all diabetics), or if you are a physician who regularly monitors affected patients, type two diabetes is a veritable gold mine. For medical practitioners who are paid based on the number of treatments, there is nothing better than millions of chronically ill patients who need life time treatment. Which is to say that the entire US health care industry benefits financially from the bad habits of millions of sick Americans.

Save money, improve lives

Needless to say, drastically curtailing the incidence of type two diabetes cases through targeted wellness education campaigns would save America billions of dollars every year, while improving the quality of life for millions of chronically ill patients. But you do not see the headlines explaining any of this. in the absence of wellness programs, diabetics keep doing what they are told. They have to keep monitoring their blood sugar levels (yes, sell more of those monitoring devices!) and take more insulin.