Education has a large and increasing impact on health in America. This paper examines one reason why. Education gives individuals the ability to override the default American lifestyle. The default lifestyle has three elements: displacing human energy with mechanical energy, displacing household food production with industrial food production, and displacing health maintenance with medical dependency. Too little physical activity and too much food produce imperceptibly accumulating pathologies. The medical industry looks for products and services that promise to soften the consequences but do not eliminate the underlying pathologies. This “secondary prevention” creates pharmacologic accumulation: prolonging the use of medications, layering them, and accruing their side effects and interactions. Staying healthy depends on recognizing the risks of the default lifestyle. Overriding it requires insight, knowledge, critical analysis, long-range strategic thinking, personal agency, and self-direction. Education develops that ability directly and indirectly, by way of creative work and a sense of controlling one’s own life.
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