Dean Vernon Wormer of Faber College had some memorable advice for Kent "Flounder" Dorfman in the 1978 cult hit, "Animal House," after the freshman Delta pledge achieved a 0.2 grade point average:
"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."
Americans, unfortunately, haven't heeded the dean's advice any more so than the Deltas.
Whether Americans have become stupider is open to debate, but the nation has become fatter and drunker, which isn't very smart in terms of health and health care costs.
Rarely mentioned in the roiling debate over the future of health care is health, the simple fact that good health is the best insurance against high health care costs. But, as detailed in a study by Scientific American, most of the health data is headed in the wrong direction.
The good news is that, from 1995 through 2010, smoking rates declined in every state except Oklahoma and West Virginia. The national average fell from 22.7 percent of adults to 17.3 percent. In Pennsylvania, the rate fell from 24.2 percent to 18.4 percent - a decline of about 23 percent.
That trend is part of the reason that obesity has passed tobacco use as the nation's leading cause of disease.
Nationally, the percentage of obese adults rose from 15.9 to 27.6 over the period. In Pennsylvania the increase was from 16.4 percent to 29.2 percent - 78 percent.
Habitual heavy drinking increased nationally from 2.9 percent to 4.9 percent of the adult population, the study found. Pennsylvania fared better, with heavy drinking declining from 4.3 percent of adults to 3.9 percent, one percentage point below the national average.
Occasional binge drinking rose by one percentage point nationally, from 14.1 to 15.1 percent of adults, while it declined in Pennsylvania from 19.5 percent to 15.1 percent, a 22 percent decline.
The numbers point to the degree to which Americans could fix their costly health care system through better lifestyle choices. But they also point to an array of wayward public policies, especially food production subsidies based on politics rather than nutrition.
Health care is a complex issue yet it is rooted in simple health choices. It's stupid to deal only with the system's economics while ignoring the best way to bring down costs.