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Fixin' Healthcare

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In Search of Health

I come to praise medical care, not to defend it. The praise is justified for providing relief of pain and suffering, for saving lives of the injured, for rehabilitation of the sick and disabled, for amelioration of chronic disease processes, for participating in the increase of life expectancy and for expanding the boundaries of knowledge for the biomedical sciences. But medical care suffers from an excess of praise. Praise originates with expectations, fuels expectations and arouses pride in the recipient. Pride clouds vision and forsakes purpose to yield enterprise that is not always of use or capable of providing relief to the sick.

People expect many things from medical care, sickness has a way of doing that. The expectations for medical care have teetered on the balance between hope and wishful thinking and ranged as far as explaining and relieving every complaint, ailment and human problem to delaying death. Expectations create demand and there is no defense against expectations and demands for outcomes beyond the capabilities of medical care. Nor is there an acceptable rationale for failing to learn and live the lifestyles that shape and support the pathways to good health.

My heart is in sympathy with medical care. But medical care is not everything in health. It is not most of health or the first thing in health; it is the last thing when health fails; it is the response to illness, disease, injury and disability. America expects more, but must learn to achieve it. Good health is a blessing, which like all blessings must be earned everyday.

The status of health in a society starts with the mind-set of the individual members. That mind-set can be directed toward health or sickness by the values and beliefs prevalent in the society, by what the society teaches and how the society behaves and utilizes resources. Good health may be the object of desire but if it is overwhelmed by fear of sickness then medical care becomes more than a process, it becomes a goal. When medical care is a goal achieving it creates a sense of security, which is not always justified and misleads people in their understanding about health.

There are many reasons for failing to understand the differences between health and sickness or health care and medical care. The greatest failing is insufficient personal thought about health in the absence of sickness. Many people don't think much about health and sickness until a problem arises. Sickness is an emotionally charged situation when thinking clearly is difficult. Even the most careful and rational of thinkers can be overwhelmed by sickness. Almost everyone expects medical care to develop the capability to cure illness, disease and disability. When this is the mind-set that dominates thinking about health, it increases the amount and intensity of medical care, diverts attention from the active pursuit of healthy lifestyles and negatively influences health status.

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