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Letters: Shape up or else

January 15, 2013
  • Trainer Angela Parker leads her class in a workout at Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. The city isn't alone in its struggle to deal with complaints about crowds of fitness fanatics.
Trainer Angela Parker leads her class in a workout at Palisades Park along… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

Re "Not a good fit?," Jan. 10

On the same day a study showed Americans are the least healthy among citizens of wealthy countries, there is a front-page article about residents of Santa Monica complaining that too many people are exercising on public land at Palisades Park. That's more than a little ironic.

Lack of physical activity is one of the main drivers of poor health in this country, and you would think everyone would be in favor of more people exercising. This is just an example of the unexpected challenges faced when trying to help people be healthier. You would be surprised at how many people object to improving physical education in schools, protecting bicyclists from cars and slowing traffic so kids can walk to school safely.

James Sallis

San Diego

The writer is a professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego.

Re "Wealthy, but not so healthy," Editorial, Jan. 13

As you note, despite the presence of top-flight medical schools, well-trained doctors and nurses, extraordinary equipment, terrific medical research and 5,000 acute-care hospitals that are required to serve the entire population, the U.S. lags in mortality, morbidity and life expectancy versus other developed nations.

The answer to improvement rests not with our healthcare system but rather in addressing individual choices and accountability. Massive education initiatives on nutrition, exercise, lifestyle choices and wellness are needed if we are to make headway in improving Americans' health. It will probably take at least another generation before we can accomplish the cultural shift needed.

In the meantime, we have a well-equipped and expensive healthcare system that will do little to improve our ranking in most health measures.

Rob Fuller

Downey

Your editorial points out the United States' incongruous situation among "advanced" countries with its high healthcare costs and poor outcomes.

As Obamacare finally kicks in, a crucial weakness in our healthcare system will remain: Patients have easy access to quick medical evaluations and acute care when needed. Without a big increase in the number of primary-care doctors, the answer lies in training, licensing and promoting skilled primary caregivers who are not physicians but who can be accessed readily by patients.

We shouldn't have to wait in a busy emergency room for an initial evaluation by a physician with 25 years of training who decides to send the patient home with aspirin and cough syrup.

Richard J. Steckel, MD

Santa Barbara

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