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Posts Tagged ‘health care’

The New Year is upon us and the winter holiday season has drawn to a close. We will all soon be back on our normal schedule, with some of us hunkered down for the winter as well. It is a good time to talk about change, don’t you think?

We just changed from one year to the next (an entirely arbitrary change, by the way – our years could start in March or July). Many of us will attempt, and some will succeed, to make lifestyle changes to improve or maintain good health. And I have to start preparing myself for the change from full-time student to, well, whatever it is I will become after I finish school. Initially that will most likely be unemployed, but it is my intention to change from that status to one of income producing member of society in some way within a short period of time (by the way, if any of you out there know of someone in need of a researcher or a digital artist/photographer available in mid-March in the Pacific NW, let me know).

We are surrounded and inundated by change all the time. Most of the time we don’t pay it any mind. But once it threatens to infringe on our carefully crafted daily routine, we tend to get all huffy about it. Which is kind of silly, don’t you think? I mean, if we can’t stop the change from coming, what point is there in getting all worked up over it?

And we can’t usually stop it. Most of the time the change comes from outside of our sphere of influence, or is an internal process that takes us completely by surprise (these can sometimes be prevented if we are aware of what’s going on internally, which most of us are not). I’m thinking of the panic and the vituperative tone of the current “health care debate.” I put all of that in quotations because A) we don’t have a health care system we have a symptom management system, and B) the tone so far is nothing near a debate – more like an argument between two groups of 4 year olds in the sand box.

What I hear in this debate is fear, and it is likely all fear of change. Fear that the people who donate millions of dollars to my reelection campaign will pull their funding if I vote the “wrong” way; fear that my state will not get as big a piece of the pie as some other state; fear that I’ll look foolish in the eyes of my constituents and/or party members; fear that as bad as the system is now, change will be worse; or fear that one side or the other of the aisle will have more control. It is possible that some of these folks actually want U.S. citizens to have affordable access to basic medical care, prevention education and training, and proper nutrition. But if that is the case, I’m not hearing it in the debate.

We hear a lot about how the U.S. has the best health care system in the world, and many people in this country believe that. But is it simply not true. 17 countries have better maternal mortality rates than does the U.S., in part because only two countries have more caesarean sections than we do. We are tied with the UK at #5 in the world for death by circulatory disease, and we have more teenage pregnancies (both in gross numbers and per capita) than any other industrialized nation. We are ranked #3 when it comes to number of years that women live in ill health (10.7 years) and #7 for men (8 years). 30.6% of our population is obese, which is known to create and contribute to a number of health issues, and yet only Japanese people go to the doctor more often than we do (on average 8.9 visits to the doctor per person per year). We spend more per capita on health care than do other countries and the amount we spend is a greater percentage of our GDP than for any other country, yet we only have 3 hospital beds for every 1,000 people (that puts us at a ranking of 81, tied with the tiny countries of Samoa and Andorra) and we are ranked #47 for life expectancy at birth (men and women combined).

In addition, the statistics show us that we spend 95% of our health care dollar on disease treatment and only 5% on prevention, and that doctors interrupt patients roughly 20 seconds into the patients’ description of their problem, which is no where near enough time to get a clear picture of what is really going on. Now I can pick and choose which statistics to display here, in order to make my point (and I know that you know that), but no matter how you look at it, this is clearly not the best health care system on the planet. All systems have their drawbacks and their successes, but it is pretty clear that something needs to change here.

The medical system is fraught with fear: of malpractice suits, of not getting paid, of missing something that this test or that test will highlight. There is no room in the current medical model for a patient-doctor partnership, which is what is truly needed for reform. Patients are not textbooks, and we all respond to stressors in different ways. The only way real reform will happen is if personalized medicine, also known as functional medicine, is given precedence over the disease management model.

But since there is no profit for the big pharmaceutical companies in functional medicine you can expect to see more fear-mongering in the future.

Which takes us back to the topic of change. I see a lack of civility, a lack of compassion, and a lack of basic manners in our current society, with an overabundance of vitriol, misdirection and outright lying taking their place, both on a national scale and interpersonally. It is more popular to be snarky and cynical than it is to be genuine and compassionate, and we see that reflected in our media, the forms of entertainment that dominate the airwaves, and the way our politicians conduct business.

I say it’s time to make a change. It is my intention to be more conscious of my words this year, to become more aware of what I am saying and why I am saying it.

To speak with more clarity and compassion, and to keep my mouth shut if I can’t engage in “Right Speech.”

To speak my truth with grace and not with rancor or arrogance. To recognize that there are many things that are true and that some of these true things contradict each other. My experience in life is my truth: it may differ from yours, but that does not negate the trueness of either experience. We need to change how we respond to the truths of others.

To gently but directly call someone when they speak an untruth. When rumors and misunderstandings are stated as facts, we need to stand up for the truth. Be prepared with evidence, or at least be prepared to find the evidence to show that you aren’t just engaging in debate out of pure emotion.

We need to change how we interact with our physicians and other service providers. Speak up for yourself in the clinic and insist on working in partnership with your care provider. You are not a helpless infant who needs to be cared for by an all-knowing parent. You are responsible for your own health and well-being, so act like it. Learn what you can about what you are currently living with and learn what options are out there for treatment or maintenance. Learn about nutrition, about how diet can create so many of the illnesses we see in modern society. Recognize that your primary care physician simply can’t know everything there is to know about the body and, when your instincts tell you that you need a specialist, insist on it.

If this is of value to you, then let others know your intention. And call your elected representatives, too. Tell them that the tone in Washington has been too divisive and ask them to consider their choice of words before speaking.

After all, we all have to live in this society. Isn’t it nicer when we act like compassionate adults instead of whiny, pouty children?

statistics from NationMaster.com

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