Change I Can Be Livin’ In: Re-Forming Health and Health Care

So, I supported Obama through the difficult and sometimes very nasty primary season, offered publicly to be his private cook and acupuncturist during the upcoming campaign, and now want to look at the changes which, as a healthy care practitioner, I would give top priority in planning the HEALTHY LIVE ACTIVE CULTURE reform that America needs to see reflected and addressed by our political leadership.

Eric Sevareid, a famous journalist from the 70’s era once remarked: “The biggest big business in America is not steel, automobiles or television. It is the manufacture, refinement and distribution of anxiety.” An agenda of real change can suggest what is necessary for us to feel empowered to act in ways that might actually produce hope, health and increased well being rather than the ubiquitous American insecurity and anxiety which has been so encouraged and prodded for political reasons during recent years, and for commercial reasons by the now ubiquitous TV advertising for pharmaceutical drugs.

Essentially we people have to stop living in ways that support government by corporacracy and special interest. I can say without hesitation that if we don’t like the way a huge corporation is behaving or what it’s producing, we can put it out of business by our behavior (both personal and public policy). If enough people had my consuming habits (which I am not suggesting they should … this is just an example), the largest cola, pharmaceutical and fast food companies would no longer exist.

In considering our collective myths about health care, we first need to recognize that demanding that people all buy health insurance is not the same as fundamentally reforming our health care system to make top quality care available to all. In England, in the late 1940’s the Minister of Health claimed the worldwide moral high ground by announcing a national health service that would attempt to provide the best quality health care to all British residents, regardless of ability to pay or preexisting conditions. Though there are some problems with this kind of system, the basic idea of providing disease care and preventative health care as an entitlement of citizenship serves what should be seen as a fundamental human right. If you don’t already think this way, ask yourself who shouldn’t be taken care of in this way … and why not? If you object to taxes paying for this, you have to re-examine priorities which pay for endless war but not basic humane medical care. I can never believe how people from our system can criticize the inefficiencies (though real) of the British, Canadian and other systems … as if we are doing any better with situation where almost 50 million Americans have no health insurance of any kind.

A requirement for everyone to buy health insurance does nothing to eliminate the egregious waste, high cost and lack of accountability which exists in our current disease care system. I have a friend who flies to India to get care … and even with the air fare, it’s cheaper … and gets equally good if not better care. As a practitioner of a healing modality for which people pay out-of-pocket, I know that if what I am doing doesn’t work … they stop coming, though more commonly, they stop coming when their symptoms go away. With private insurance … every provider along the way gets their nickel, even if none of it is actually helping the patient, an unsustainable system.

Americans can stop being infantile about their expectations of “health care”. Over time: the “health” part seems more and more simple: most Americans eat unhealthy diets, don’t get enough exercise, don’t get out in the midday sun and make enough Vitamin D to stay healthy, don’t relax, and live and work in poor, toxic indoor air. Then they expect to go to a doctor, the “care” part, to fix them when something is wrong. We know that this is an approach to health culture which is unrealistic, expensive and unworkable. On the other hand, once there is serious disease or health catastrophe, people should not go broke, lose their homes or savings in order to obtain life saving treatment. We have to work at this from both ends … giving priority to keeping people healthier, creating healthier living environments, AND providing affordable treatment for anyone needing it.

A political platform of change would give priority to promoting healthy pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, which help set up patterns for life-long health, including the well known link between breastfeeding and obesity prevention. This would all be supported by universal parental leave which would show a real commitment to family/human health and well being.

A political platform of change will create a priority of “Food Security” in all neighborhoods so that convenience, fast and junk food stores are not the only source of food for many people. The burgeoning movement of Farmers’ Markets and Community Supported Agriculture supplying both rural and urban centers can do much to help with this, as it also decreases green house gases with fewer “food miles”. Food stamps and WIC recipients can now get products at farmer’s markets.

When we put good ideas about healthy care reform and good ideas about addressing climate change together we find out that they are the same basket of goodies. This is win/win thinking. Many of the things we can do to be healthier … like eating less animal protein and fat, growing food, riding bicycles, are also things that lessen greenhouse gas emissions.

This means us deciding and acting. Though a president or senator or almost- president can be inspiring, it is the committed actions of individuals day in and day out which will make the difference. As Margaret Mead more poetically pointed out … it is indeed the only thing that will really make a difference. New leadership can work to change the big stuff … like problems with coal burning power plants and the creation of “green collar” jobs to promote renewable and clean energy sources … but there are many ways we don’t have to wait for change from the right leaders. Even the tumultuous weather patterns this spring push us to take action, if we haven’t already. Wangari Matthai, Founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize said what we hear more and more these days: “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
Isn’t this always true? What are we waiting for? It’s a moment to moment thing: the people can lead the leaders in many ways.