The War on America's Health

The right to a healthy environment and the right to affordable health care are inextricably linked. The Trump White House and the Republican Congress want to deny both.

Not long ago, the United States was one of the few OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries – along with Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey – that did not guarantee universal health care as a basic human right. Instead, we had a system that discriminated against people with pre-existing health conditions as well as low- and middle-income individuals who could not afford insurance premiums. Health care was a commodity that only the affluent among us could be guaranteed access.

The passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 was a remarkable achievement for the United States. Recognizing the role government has in ensuring citizens have access to quality health care, more than 20 million previously uninsured people started receiving basic health care coverage. An even greater - but relatively unrecognized achievement - of the ACA was moving our system towards rewarding positive health outcomes that create better health, rather than just paying for expensive treatments and medications to manage conditions.

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Gary Cohen has been a pioneer in the environmental health movement for thirty years. He is president and co-founder of Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth and he was instrumental in bringing together the NGOs and hospital systems that formed the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. The White House presented him with the Champion of Change Award for Climate Change and Public Health and the Huffington Post named him a Game Changer in Healthy Living.