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Fixin' Healthcare

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Medical Care Is Not Health Care

The "political season" generates pressure to propose innovative solutions to problems that rank high for public attention. This season health is on that list. If the goal is improved health status at lower cost, then health promotion, preventive health care, early detection of disease and more consistent care for chronic health problems are good ideas.

The concept of preventing health problems has been around for a long time. The greater part of improved health and increased life span that occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries is directly or indirectly due to public health and prevention. Think of sanitation, housing, safe drinking water, adequate nutrition, refrigeration, personal hygiene and immunizations. To say the least, improved health status is a broad, complex area that requires active participation of individuals and populations with social and government institutions. If it is to be done at a lower cost, the implementation cannot be within the medical care system.

During the 20th century, America redefined health care as medical care and, then, equated medical care with medical insurance. It has been a lethal and costly mind-set. When health promotion and preventive health care are defined in terms of medical care, the costs become prohibitive and the effectiveness is lost.

The politicians have a good idea. Now, they have to rethink how to implement it. I suggest they define and refine medical care to study and treat serious illnesses and diseases. Stop equating medical insurance with improving health status and recognize it as an economic risk tool to protect against financial ruin. Create a health care program for all citizens and implement it through the public health and educational systems at the community level.

I believe the Director of the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggested something similar. Are you listening?


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