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Fixin' Healthcare

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - Frankenstein Defined

The Frankenstein Syndrome is the most common health care problem in the US. It is characterized by an excessive reliance upon high technology medicine to compensate for unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, excessive ingestion of alchohol, excessive use of medications, lack of physical activity, excessive stress, lack of sleep and obesity). The most severe cases are those people who suffer from chronic diseases and expect high technology medicine to provide significant relief with little or no changes in lifestyle by the patient. Interestingly, many of these people do not consistently comply with the therapies.

Long-term compliance with therapy for a chronic disease is much more difficult than people ever realize until they have to do it. Chronic disease management is an industry springing up to address this issue. Of course, the high cost of therapies and other logistical situations impact compliance.

The less severe cases of "Frankenstein" are those people who have not developed chronic disease but are at risk and have not made lifestyle changes. Also, included in this group are the "worried well" and those pursuing youth by means of untested supplements, inappropriate use of hormones and surgeries.

My apologies to any obstetricians who are upset about the use of increasing incidence of C-sections and inductions of labor as examples of the Frankenstein Syndrome. I believe that many obstetricians want to reduce the incidence of C-sections but the situation defeats them. To them I say that any effective health care reform must include education of the public and this is one of the focused campaigns to demonstrate change. Perhaps you should renew your effort now that reform is back on the national agenda.

Another example of the Frankenstein Syndrome is excessive use of medications. Advertisng of medications by pharmaceutical companies is a major influence. Part D of Medicare contributes to the problem. A useful national public health goal would be to link Healthy People 2010 to decreasing the utilization of medications by 15% (an arbitrary selection from the C-section playbook).

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