Institutions nationwide are piloting new ways to take care of patients’ needs beyond the hospital bed. That task took on added urgency when Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee released the results of their investigation into social networks among the elderly earlier this year. The analysis: social networks are declining and America is going to pay for it – probably in higher healthcare costs.
“[A]n increasingly inadequate level of informal care . . . would necessitate a greater amount of institutional care outside the home and away from loved ones, reducing, for many, their quality of life,” the Committee wrote. “[I]nstitutional care often entails burdensome expenses,” including individuals spending down their assets and the public paying for costly nursing home care.
For many seniors, informal networks of friends and family help them perform household chores, organize their finances, and navigate their medical appointments. These informal care networks are vital to addressing, as the CDC put it, “conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks,” or “social determinants of health.” According to scholars at Yale Law School’s Solomon Center, “25 percent of individual health is determined by genetics, medical care, and health behaviors, while 75 percent of health is determined by social and environmental factors.”
The highlight of Black History Month took place when former President Barack Obama, along with basketball star Steph Curry, took center stage in Oakland, California to address issues facing young men of color. Obama and Curry were not there to talk about how to change federal policy. Instead, they discussed tangible ways in which young black men can facilitate stronger and safer communities.
The town hall event, sponsored by Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative,” stressed the values of community mentorship and personal responsibility. The topics raised were wide-ranging. Among them were ways to support young men without fathers, how to reject toxic masculinity, and the importance of embracing monogamy.
Obama spoke candidly about how communities need to raise the level of expectation for how young black men should act. Emphasizing that “real” men do not show their manhood by disrespecting others, or by putting women down, he tried to counteract some of the pernicious elements of culture that are found in some black communities. It was a timely reminder that a strong moral compass makes a difference in life.
He also talked about the value of education. Sitting next to one of the NBA’s greatest players, he told young men they had a better chance of being a lawyer or a doctor than a professional basketball player. In my mind, these nuggets of wisdom Obama imparted were not controversial. But unsurprisingly, some people were upset with him for raising these issues.
The Green New Deal (GND), a resolution sponsored by House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey, proposes a sweeping reform of the nation’s environmental and social policies. Its bold proposals, while popular among voters, have already soured the faces of congressional leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dismissed the proposed deal as “a dream, or whatever they call it,” while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to hold a vote on the GND to portray Democrats who support it as naïve and radical. Something these leaders have in common? At roughly 80 years of age, they will never live to see the worst effects of climate change devastate communities across the globe.
In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark report last year, the panel noted that failing to keep the world from warming 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, as opposed to a more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees, will impose devastating consequences. The extra 0.5 degrees of warming could expose 10 million more people to risks associated with sea level rise, increase the number of people living under water stress by 50 percent, and put several hundred million more people at the simultaneous risk of poverty and climate change-related harm. Right now, the Climate Action Tracker projects that the world is nowhere close to preventing these devastating effects and is in fact on track to warm a catastrophic 3 degrees Celsius.
At the same time, the United States is grappling with economic inequality and widespread social injustice. It is no secret that wages for everyday Americans are stagnating, while the top 1 percent of earners continue to capture most of the nation’s wealth. No less troubling, racial and gender pay gaps show few signs of budging.
In the face of this troubling evidence that environmental, economic, and social well-being are on a rapid decline, the Green New Deal is a welcome call to action. By addressing both the climate and socio-economic crises in one plan, the resolution encourages us to consider the possibility of complete transformation rather than piecemeal reform. Leaders are reasonable to call its feasibility into question, but dismissing it out of hand is equally short-sighted.