James Maskell: Hello and welcome to a special episode. I’m here with Congressman Tim Ryan. Thanks Congressman for being with us. Our audience is really the integrative and functional medicine community, practitioners and doctors and typically they’re doing their work outside of the system. What do you see on the policy end that’s giving them hope that they maybe have a more of more relevance in the future of medicine?
Congressman Tim Ryan: I think the general move towards food is medicine towards prevention towards and obviously none of this is happening quick enough but towards new ways of farming – which is kind of moving us away from the old agricultural system and the old healthcare system but the more you focus on prevention I think the more you get in line with things that can happen outside of the healthcare system.
James Maskell: Beautiful! I know you’ve been a huge champion for food change. So what what’s sort of the vision for a new food system under?
Congressman Tim Ryan: Well the big the big issue is that we are subsidizing the very crops that get converted into really highly processed food. That’s how the whole system is structured. That’s how farmers are paid those are where the incentives are. And we have to if we’re going to change the health care system and the food system we have to begin to pay farmers to grow healthy foods, to grow produce, specialty crops in a variety of other things that are both good for the environment but also produce healthy food. And how do you then integrate that into urban areas? Where you can have urban agriculture and get rid of food deserts and get healthy food into our schools, our prisons, our universities? So it becomes you’re playing offense with healthy food as opposed to letting this old system dominate everything.
James Maskell: Where are you seeing the most of the green shoots of excitement and innovations and across the country is it in Ohio or is it in certain pockets?
Congressman Tim Ryan: You know there’s little pockets everywhere across the country. If you go to place like Milwaukee they have this very robust urban agriculture initiative there that is permeating the the community. You go to places like Cleveland, Detroit places you wouldn’t normally think in the south you see urban AG initiatives. I’ve even been in the Indiana where I’ve met farmers who used to be very conservative and now they’re libertarian or even democratic that have moved into different kinds of farming regenerative agriculture that actually help clean the water where the water that lands on the property and by the time it flows through to the stream is cleaner than the water at the beginning of that process using less chemicals less pesticide so they actually end up making more money. So these things are happening all over the country and I think it’s our job at the federal level to find out what’s working what are the best practices and then throw gasoline on that because it’s good for the environment it’s good for the health care system it’s good for the food system and it saves a lot of money in long run.
James Maskell: Beautiful. And what about sort of the access and on the other end so the demand and because the supply you can do a lot with but you’ve got to have people want to have healthier foods too. Where do you think that – what’s working on that end that you see?
Congressman Tim Ryan: Well some ideas are you know how do you increase, for example with the SNAP program? How do you increase the amount of money you can get to buy healthy food? So if you go to a farmers market you’re you know whatever you have is worth double then it would normally be if you went to a grocery store if you bought fruits and vegetables with it it would be worth more. I think things like that are really important. The key to really shift the whole national program is to have public institutions like schools like prisons like universities begin to dedicate a small part of their food budget to locally sourced food because as you try to grow as you said try to grow the supply you need somewhere to sell this stuff. Yeah. If you want farmers to move towards produce you need to make sure there’s a market for them to sell those products and so that they can make a living and provide some stability for farmers, too. So I think getting incentives in the public side. Yeah. Will create that that demand.
James Maskell: How difficult is it to actually sort of force that demand in the public sector? Is it is that easy to do or is that come with its own set of rules?
Congressman Tim Ryan: Well take yeah I mean it’s difficult now which is why we need people who are into functional medicine who are into food to be involved in the political system. I mean I’ve been doing this a little while now and in people who sometimes are really excited about what they’re doing or excited about functional medicine don’t always see the direct connection to public policy. Especially now politics is so messy we need people to help shift that and make it a priority and if we get more people engaged involved we can start moving the needle on this stuff.
James Maskell: Beautiful.
So just to switch gears a little bit into the healthcare piece because that’s what a lot of our our community cares about, a huge issue is this opiate crisis that’s going across and I know it’s big in your state and it’s big you know all across the country, you know, and yet they’re all these practitioners sitting at home saying I know how to get people out of chronic pain without drugs. What would you say to those practitioners where there’s just such a mismatch?
Congressman Tim Ryan: Well I’m one who’s trying to advocate for getting them into for example like the Veterans Administration to get some of these practices more lined up for the VA to use to help with drug addiction for example and trying to promote more and more things like mindfulness based stress reduction, diet, acupuncture, some of these things that are really helping people deal with their addiction having that more accessible to have it reimbursable by for psychologists or doctors or whoever’s teaching it because there are answers there, but you can’t really have a conversation about the opiate crisis without talking about its direct relation to a lot of hopelessness, a lot of economic hopelessness, in the country where people don’t have opportunity. They don’t have hope. They don’t have a bright future, and so they’re always more susceptible to, you know, if you throw your back out at work and you start taking some pills that make you feel better and you’re less inclined to go back to a job that maybe doesn’t pay a whole lot and doesn’t provide you a lot of security in times of tough.
James Maskell: Yeah absolutely. Is there is there a sort of a momentum in Washington and and also in your home state to really get to the bottom of this?
Congressman Tim Ryan: Yeah there’s this is one of the few bipartisan agreements we’ve had with the Cara bill the comprehensive addiction and Recovery Act where Democrats and Republicans have both come together and and put some serious money behind starting from the first responder law enforcement prevention aspect of it and then also getting into the saving people’s lives right on the street and then also with the recovery process and making sure that people are getting the kind of treatment that they deserve. That’s why the Medicaid expansion was really important for states like Ohio with high opiate use because a lot of people access treatment through that Medicaid program and so you need to do it on the front end in the middle and on the back end with the treatment. How do you see making the argument for this when you’re out there talking about prevention talking about saving money down the road whether it be with food or integrated medicine or mindfulness, what are some what are some of the key things that you’ve been able to use and assets that you’ve been able to use to change people’s minds because prevention is not always easy to sell. Yeah I think a lot of it you know using athletes you know using the Tom Brady’s and LeBron Jameses of the world and just looking at how they function at such a high level. What’s their diet? What’s their discipline? Like to have doctors like Mark Hyman and others really talk about the importance of it which is why we we are pushing a bill called the Enriched Act which would teach doctors in medical school more about nutrition as a real solution to a lot of the problems that we have so making sure that doctors are part of that. Teaching it in the schools. We’re doing the ton with trying to get salad bars in the schools and and more healthy food in the schools and plugging them into locally sourced food so at all levels really trying to do this. As I said what’s amazing is there’s no solutions right now that are really gonna come out of Washington. The solutions are all over the country it’s Washington’s job I think to find out what those things are that are working in and and then amplify them and then have a political group of people in the country who are saying yes like that’s the direction we need to go in.
James Maskell: Is there enough sort of political juice and funding behind these kind of ideas? Like who’s funding the proliferation of like the enriched act through like where does the money come from to fight the money that’s be going in the other direction?
Congressman Tim Ryan: Well there’s not enough. I mean this is kind of my mission is how do I get people’s attention to say, “Hey we need to support candidates and congressmen who are pushing these kinds of things.” We need to push back on the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry. Really the vested interest today that are making so much money off the current system and the systems are clearly broken. So we need to build a olitical movement behind the new ideas and if you don’t have votes and energy and people we’re going to knock on doors and do all the kind of the grunt work that’s needed in a democracy, it’s gonna be harder to move the needle. But if you have that and a little bit of money you can you can really go a long way and make some big change beautiful.
James Maskell: Well look I really appreciate taking the time I know you’re busy and going all around the country to you know to light this mission on fire and our community of practitioners and people that care about Integrative Medicine I know are looking for people in Washington that can make a big difference. So if you’re watching this and you want to find out more about congressman Tim Ryan go to functionalforum.coms/timryan. We’ve got a whole series of videos on there. Great content. You’ll be able to follow his progress as he goes around the country looking for these solutions and sharing them. Check out the Enriched Act. We’ll have more information about that but thanks so much for watching. Thanks so much congressman.
Congressman Tim Ryan: Thanks for having me.
James Maskell: Thank you.