The healthcare system in America: it’s very complicated and highly controversial. There are so many hands in the pot because it affects everyone. And there is lots of money to be made. Medical professionals, insurance companies, drug companies, medical equipment companies, universities/allied health schools, advertising agencies, research companies, nonprofit organizations and politicians all have a stake because they make money from healthcare (“accounts receivable”). Full disclosure, I am a physical therapist so I also make my living providing healthcare services. We the people also have a stake, but we are on the “accounts payable” side. So much overlap, so many things can go wrong to diminish the system, but the biggest reason our healthcare system is failing is us!!! What do you mean? “I’ve got some splainin’ to do?” Okay, here’s why.
First and foremost, we as individuals don’t pay much attention to our own health care at all. We have now given this responsibility to someone else, usually our doctor or pharmacist or chiropractor, herbalist, witch doctor, neighbor or worst of all.. the internet!
Now don’t get me wrong, they all may have very important information to help you with your healthcare decisions, but you and only you are responsible for your health. Seeking advice and counsel about your issues, or how to keep from having issues is smart. But for every issue, there may be multiple ways to treat it: drugs, surgery, exercise, rest, prayer, acupuncture, etc. etc., even food (yes food)! But what to do? “Oh, I’ll just do whatever the doctor tells me or my PT or my chiropractor or whomever.” WRONG! No matter how good they are, no matter how much you trust them, only you know what’s best for you. Your doctor may say take these meds for six weeks, another doctor says surgery, the PT (that’s me) says exercise. What to do?… What to do? You must educate yourself and pay attention with your body awareness, then do what feels right for you. The key here is on the doing. You have to do it, take the meds as directed, do the exercises regularly, and show up for appointments.
Now many of you may have noticed that I have left out (purposely) something very important, the key to staying healthy. And it’s my favorite topic to talk about. That’s right, prevention! Prevention, prevention, prevention. I’ll keep saying it until everyone finally gets it. The best (and cheapest) way to not spend billions on health care in this country is to spending millions on prevention. And I mean true prevention, not pseudo-prevention. Sidebar — one of my biggest pet peeves is the American Cancer Society saying that the best prevention for breast cancer is a mammogram. No, no, no, that’s not prevention. Mammograms only tell you after you have the cancer. That’s early detection and it’s very important but it’s not prevention! Eating immune-building foods, exercising and meditating now that’s prevention! — Okay, I’m back.
The reason most people are not really into prevention is either they don’t really know what it means, or they think that prevention lifestyle changes are too hard and more costly than the difficulties in dealing with problems after you have health issues. Also, the medical community does not promote prevention enough (or at all). And there is very little research money spent on prevention relative to what’s being spent on treatment. That’s because there is no return on investment. Simply put, you can’t patent eating broccoli or trademark taking a daily walk. In other words, there is no money to be made in being healthy only in being unhealthy.
So let’s imagine an efficiently running healthcare system that has the optimum health of the people as its primary focus. Come, dream with me a little. If doctors used the copious amounts of excellent research on prevention to educate their patients, how many healthcare dollars could be saved? If employers had meaningful injury/disease prevention programs for all employees, how many healthcare dollars could be saved? If our politicians would have guts enough to put forth real cost-effective, prevention oriented programs that promote health and not cater to big business in order to get reelected, how many healthcare dollars could be saved? And most importantly, if we as individuals took this information and put it to good use creating healthy, fun, active lifestyles for ourselves and our families, how many more healthcare dollars could be saved? The answer to this recurrent question is… (wait, let me do the math)… a lot! More than enough to make a significant difference to our currently overburdened healthcare system.
Wait, don’t awaken from our dream just yet. Let’s dream of what this preventive lifestyle might look like. It would begin with planning and making long-term health a top priority in your life. You would learn to cook with whole foods and make them taste great so it would be a pleasure to eat healthfully, not a chore. Eating mostly plants that will boost your immune system so you will feel better today and as you get older. You would make exercise a daily priority and seek active pastimes outside such as walking, playing and communing with nature instead of sitting mindlessly in front of the tv or computer. You would make time regularly to manage stress with proven methods such as meditation, yoga, exercise, music or spending quality, loving time with family and friends. You would be happily living life pain-free and disease free, doing things that you never thought you would be able to do. Okay, now you can wake up. But this is not a dream. This is a lifestyle that can be easily adopted and will show almost immediate benefits. Many, many people are already living this dream healthy lifestyle, being happy and not dealing with the nightmare of self-inflicted ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity or cancer. This nightmare lifestyle is the most significant reason for the billions of dollars thrown at the failing, overburdened American healthcare system. Have you ever heard it said that “if you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” This is very true in this situation.
So come and join me and dare to live the dream of a healthy, preventive lifestyle. In doing so we will also make huge inroads to fixing what’s wrong with our nightmare of a healthcare system here in America.