Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How About a Little Bit of Prevention?

The Senate is debating their version of the health care bill this week. I've been paying a bit of attention to this all, but I definitely won't claim to be an expert. Let's be real, I'm just like most others who will be affected by the bill. I'm a bit busy and don't have a TON of time to investigate the hundreds of websites and news articles written about the various bills being debated. Woody and I do however, watch quite a few political/business/news shows throughout the week that often discuss the health care debate. We hear a lot about the public option, abortion coverage (or not), the costs of prescriptions, hospital care, the non-existent 'death panels' and a lot of other stuff that doesn't really come into play until someone is faced with an illness.

These are all extremely important issues that we need to do something about, but one thing we don't hear anything about is prevention. Wow! What a novel idea, right? How do we keep people from getting sick in the first place?

Several chronic diseases can most likely be avoided if we pay attention to what we eat, cutting out the over processed 'foods' that most Americans eat today and stay active. It's pretty widely known and accepted that by living a healthier life (maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, not smoking, etc) requires lower expenditures on health care costs - prescriptions, medical tests, hospital stays. Just by controlling what someone eats and being active, we can control our blood pressure levels, and have a better chance of living a long, happy life without Type 2 Diabetes. Michael Pollan states in his book, In Defense of Food, that "A diagnosis of diabetes subtracts roughly twelve years from one's life and living with the condition incurs medical costs of $13,000 a year (compared with $2,500 for someone without diabetes)." Also, it is believed that about 80% of type 2 diabetes cases could be avoided with a healthy diet. That alone could save the government and tax payers an incredible amount of money!

So, why don't the legislatures focus on ways to prevent illness? Maybe because industry (food, pharmaceuticals, health insurers, and countless others) have too much control over our representatives? I've spent more time in a hospital this year than I'd like to spend in my lifetime, and it was nothing compared to what others have to endure. No matter how nice the nurses may be, and how intelligent the doctors may be, hospitals are not a place where anyone should want to be. It shouldn't be a goal to live life however we want assuming that a doctor will be able to cure us when we get sick. Why go through tests and procedures and spend thousands of our hard earned dollars on health costs when we could just eat better, exercise, and not smoke, and be confident that our chances of getting some of these illnesses has been diminished? I'm not saying we can completely control our health, I am definitely not going to say that, but if there's something we can do, shouldn't we do it? And shouldn't our government help to make those options available to us and provide support? It's important to have great health care for the times when we really need it, but it's also important to do all we can to fend off the diseases and illnesses that we can do something about.

What do you think? Have you voiced your opinion to your representative? I haven't yet, but I will. It's our responsibility, isn't it?

On a lighter note, HAPPY DECEMBER EVERYONE!!


Monique-aka-Surferwife23 said...

Where do I go to follow you and put you in my Reader?!?! I can tell I will love your blog. I am a bit of a fitness nut myself and love my runs. And Zoot shoes!

Thanks for stopping by my blog...

Anonymous said...

You are exactly right! Prevention-based medicine beats a cure-based system EVERY TIME. In my Masters of Public Health program I learned we are the 30th healthiest country in the world (or were 2 years ago, not sure about now), below even a 3rd world country, because we have a cure-based healthcare system that doesn't cover everyone.

Unfortunately, eating healthily is not so simple. A lot of places, particularly urban places, have no access to healthy foods or safe places to exercise. I would love to see our local governments do more to help their citizens get fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and have somewhere safe for their kids to play.

*from SITS

Rachel Cotterill said...

I'm British, so the US healthcare debate washes over me a bit, but I absolutely agree with you - prevention wins every time. At least you're doing your bit. Does the current US system reward people with lower insurance premiums for taking care of their bodies?

Lisa said...

Marfmom - there are actually a few programs, both local and state, across the country that are incentivising local mom & pop bodega's and delis to sell more fresh foods. Some provide grants to help provide better refrigeration systems and other programs even provide insentives for larger grocery chains to enter underserved neighborhoods. I just hope that with all the budget cuts goverments are facing now, they don't cut these programs completely.
Rachael - some companies do reward people, but it seems most do not. There are some great companies like IBM, Pitney Bowes, even Safeway (a grocery store chain) that have really stepped out, but from my opinion it seems like most are worried about the bottom line to invest in these things.

Alissa said...

I completely agree. As one of the uninsured, I know I put off doctor's visits because I can't afford it, or because my complaint is minor, but I am all too aware of the possibility that something small left untreated could become a big problem. Even people I know with insurance feel that the hassle of dealing with HMOs and referrals and what-not makes it such an issue to go to the doctor they avoid it until they are really sick.

The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in from SITS to say hi!

This is such an important topic--I really need to keep up with it more.