Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Treating Problems, Not Symptoms - A Rant About Our Nation's Health and Health Care Reform

During my recent sojourn into healthier eating and my ultra training, I've become increasingly interested in health issues and research. I've come to find a lot of conflicting information and some pretty controversial opinions. It made me think "Why don't most researchers and doctors agree on what's good for you and what's not?" Perhaps there are agendas supporting these research studies? This thought, of course, makes me concerned that the medical field isn't always looking out for the best interests of society, but rather their pocketbooks. A rather frightening and sobering thought.

Recently, there's been a great deal of talk about the reforming the nation's health care system. A big focus has been on making health care affordable for all - something I completely agree with. Health care shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a right. But, what really concerns me is the lack of attention these plans have towards preventative health care. If people were healthier in general, there wouldn't be such a heavy demand and burden on the health care system. Every day we are bombarded with television ads for drugs to "cure" everything from depression, insomnia, ED, etc. There's a pill for everything!! Which leads me to my next question, "What can we do to prevent illness, rather than put a bandage on it with a pill?" Let me relate a personal story regarding this.

Several years ago I was diagnosed with acid reflux disease. My doctor promptly prescribed both sulcrafate (typically used to treat ulcers) and Prevacid. I took both of these pills daily for over two years and guess what, I still had acid reflux! Granted, my heartburn severity was less intense and less frequent, but the problem still persisted. Why? Probably because only the symptoms were being treated. What was the real problem? I started to research acid reflux and found the major contributors were: diet, eating and sleeping habits, and physiological malfunction. Focusing on what I could fix - diet and eating/sleeping habits, I made changes. I minimized 'trigger' foods, ate healthier, stopped eating and drinking 2 hours or less before going to sleep, and started sleeping with my chest slightly elevated from my stomach. Lo and behold, my acid reflux disappeared!! I'm happy to say that I've been off medication and acid reflux-free for almost 2 years now!

That story shows how fixing a problem, rather than the symptom actually produces results. Perhaps a big part of our health care reform should address our country's failing health, with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes on the rise. Then again, the government can't make you eat healthier or make you get off your butt and exercise. That's ultimately up to you. Nonetheless, I'd really like to see the government take a different approach to health care reform and start fixing some our nation's health problems and not just finding better ways to pay for medications and visits to the doctor.

Anyway, my rant is over, so here's Bill Maher ranting about the same topic on his show. Very good and funny, but sobering at the same time.

1 comment:

wildknits said...

Steve - couldn't agree more. I work as a RN in a federally qualified health center. We see the uninsured and underinsured (and a few folks with insurance). Folks come to us in bad shape, poor and unable to afford much of anything.

Motivating folks to take care of themselves is hard -need patient buy-in. Lots of what I do is convincing folks to make tiny changes that will result in improvements in their health over the long run.

But, when just getting through your day, paying bills, and trying to afford food is overwhelming - asking people to change their diets and lifestyle can seem over the top. Doesn't stop me from trying;->

There is a focus on prevention among many health care providers and plans - almost to the point of not covering any illness/injuries ;->

Hoping that this time around "real" healthcare reform will happen and all americans will have access to primary care (the safety net) and do not need to delay basic primary care until what would be a simple problem to address becomes a need for hospitalization (or death).

Enough of my rant... could go on and on about this ;->