The Cost of Health

This article was originally featured as an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post:

Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food—Hippocrates

The Food Revolution Summit is a yearly event dealing with the direct relationship between food and the diseases, both physical and mental. A frightening statistic mentioned this year is that for the first time in modern history, Western culture has more sick inhabitants than healthy ones.


What is holding us back?

We have proven answers to both preventing disease and reversing disease. We now know, after thousands and thousands of all kinds of good studies, that what we call lifestyle medicine can prevent and reverse 80-85% of disease.  In practical terms, we are talking about saving the lives of millions of people on our planet.  So what is it?  What is keeping people from jumping in and having a great life?

There are definitely multiple reasons why people don’t take advantage of the latest findings in order to maintain good health.  One of the reasons that I am seeing more and more is cost.  Yes, money!

The money factor

Unfortunately, health and money have become inseparable.  But does this really have to be?  Do our perceptions about the cost of health and health care reflect the truth on this subject?  As someone who works privately, meaning the Kupat Cholim does not cover my programs nor do most private insurances, I am often asked to justify the prices I charge. A legitimate question. When trying to justify my fees, I realize that many, if not most people, have misconceptions about the money-health connection.  There is a definite disconnect when it comes to the perception of what it costs to be healthy and what it costs to by unhealthy.

A week ago, I had an eye-opening conversation with a client who has been highly successful in regaining his health.  Now 32 kilograms (70 pounds) less, he is attracting a lot of attention in his community.  He unabashedly tells people that he has also dropped 5 medications and that he is now a former diabetic. In addition, he no longer has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or anxiety.

Then there is that question they all ask, “How did you do this?”  He tells them about the program, tells

them about me, and offers my contact information.  The second question almost always comes, “How much does it cost?”  After he tells them, some respond saying that it seems expensive.

Good for your finances

My client then gave me an education and a glance into the finances of his health investments. He talked about the time that he did a Medifast (now Optavia) diet.  All those cans of shakes and packages of bars- it was a fortune.  Once, he did WeightWatchers online and ended up ordering many of their products.  That was a small fortune over time, too.

The results were typical: weight lost, followed by gaining it back and then some! Also, the food consumption in these programs is not necessarily the type of diet that reverses disease.  Then my client pointed out that whatever he paid me, he has gotten back 2 times over with a smaller grocery bill due to the type of foods he now buys.  He stated how much money he is saving by not needing medications each month.  So, aside from feeling much better and looking much better, his bank account is also healthier.

The cost of being sick

As we pointed out, in the United States, more residents are sick than are healthy.  Think about this!  The country that spends the most money per person on health from all OECD countries has some of the worse health outcomes!

Some of you might live in countries where medication is heavily subsidized. People in Israel have Kupat Cholim and England has the NHS. There is socialized medicine in Canada as well.  However, there are times one might need a medication not covered by insurance or may need to pursue private medicine.  This can get very, very expensive. In the United States a good insurance policy costs a lot of money. If you don’t have insurance, you need to be wealthy to get the best care.


For those of you who don’t have complete coverage for your drugs, consider the following for a person with typical heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death.  Most of the time, multiple medications are needed to control symptoms and risk factors. Consider that most cardiac patients require drugs to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood thinners, and drugs specific for heart failure. The average monthly cost for all these drugs can be close to $800-$900. It can even be more. That is a lot of money!  Even if your insurance covers some or most of that, there is still an out of pocket expense.

Doctor visits

What about doctors’ visits, which can become more and more frequent with more and more specialist getting involved?  What about days missed at work or from your own business due to illness?  Plain and simple, it is very costly to be sick.  Obviously, it negatively effects your quality of life, too.

We live in an era of relatively long life. If we don’t make sure that those extra years are those of wellness and vitality, it can get very costly.

Nevertheless, acquiring vitality and health quality in our last decades shouldn’t cost a lot of money at all.  The opposite is true!  If we use what has been proven to prevent and reverse disease, all these expenses can just melt away.

Beware of the scams!

We live in an age where we have become accustomed to instant results from the actions we take. Just as our phones and computers are faster, we tend to have this same expectation in medicine.  We take an antibiotic and want to feel better in a day or two.  We have a surgery or procedure and we want to be better immediately.  Healing and curing, it doesn’t always work that way.

This is an area where patience are certainly a virtue. Yet this also leads people to try remedies that may not really be remedies.  Alternative medicine, as it has become known, can be helpful, but only those disciplines which have been put to the test and passed.  Many of these disciplines can help in and of themselves and others that can be used in combination with medicine and lifestyle to bring great results.  But there are others which are just plain and simple frauds.  They might help in that they give placebo effect, but they also can take a lot of money with little or no return. Before you spend your time and money, check it out. Carefully research the methods involved.

The savings of being well

The cost of an unhealthy lifestyle manifests itself greatly in the sphere of public health.  Here are some examples.

A study model was set up to see what would happen if Medicare and Medicaid in the US would subsidize 30% of the cost of fruits and vegetables.  The study team found that subsidizing fruits and vegetables would prevent 1.93 million cardiovascular events, like heart attacks, and 350,000 deaths from those conditions. Subsidizing fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods would prevent:

  • 28 million cardiovascular events,
  • 620,000 deaths, and
  • 120,000 cases of diabetes.

The fruits and vegetables program would save nearly $40 billion in healthcare costs, and the addition of other healthy foods would save over $100 billion. But that’s not all.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit science advocacy organization based in the United States. When they ran a model on fruit and vegetable consumption, they found the most amazing thing.  The report concluded that if Americans eat one additional serving of fruits or vegetables daily:

  • This would lead to a national savings of $5 billion in health care expenditures.
  • 30,301 heart disease and stroke deaths would prevented each year.

A step further – eating a full 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily, as recommended by federal dietary guidelines:

  • could prevent 127,261 deaths each year
  • save $17 billion in medical costs

The economic value of the lives saved from cardiovascular diseases is an astounding $11 trillion.  These numbers are staggering, but they are absolutely true.

Money saving ways

As my client has seen, it is a money-saver to eat a plant predominant diet.  It doesn’t cost any money to go out for a walk every day.  It costs nothing to go to sleep earlier and get 7-9 hours a night.  How much money do people save when they quit smoking?  If you’re a pack-a-day smoker you will keep about $3,000 dollars in your pocket—let alone not paying later when you get sick for medical care.

You may need a health or wellness coach schooled in lifestyle medicine to get started.  It’s an investment in your health and, it’s an investment that will bring you that money back many times over. Health is an investment well worth the outlay.  Like any good long-term investment, try to see beyond the relatively small initial outlay and collect a fantastic return.  Investing in your health with both money and habit change will “add hours to her days, days to her years, and years to her life.”


One Comment

  1. Rachel cohen May 29, 2023 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Totally agree with every word. B H I am on a predominantly vegan diet besides on shabbat and yom tov and I exercise regularly and I definitely feel a lot younger than some people less than half my age and I see it as a result of the consumption of the modern diet with all it’s unhealthy additives and processed foods. Which are expensive and make a person feel sluggish and unable to be as active as they could be. As an excercise teacher (in my spare time) I see how difficult it is for people to get out and move even though when they do get to the class they actually love it and feel so good afterwards. The ones who persist and come regularly are few and far between. I know life with young children is busy and can be overwhelming but it’s so important to tale out that small slot of time to do something for ones health and keep it up. Many thanks for the constant inspiration. One step at a time we can change the world. B e H

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