I couldn't have been happier to see on my Blackberry this morning the news of VICTORY from Planned Parenthood that Congress had passed the health care reform bill. The message was coded in gold, as it should have been: our elected officials deserve a big gold star for taking this very important step toward changing what is arguably the most problematic issue plaguing America today. The health care issue is probably the most emblamatic of how we have gone awry in our efforts to offer up the incentives necessary for a productive society, so awry that people, even so-called "productive" ones, can not afford to take care of their own physical health.
I wrote an article about health care recently that will soon appear in The Spirit of Women magazine, a thin but chock-full publication that appears in doctors' offices around the country offering up real, practical advice on hot topics, including, as one might expect, topics germaine to staying healthy. The short piece tries to outline in a mere 400 words how people might be able to procure health care without health insurace. Ha. Its brevity seemed, at the outset, like a necessity, it might have been even shorter, like two words: YOU CAN'T! Turns out that is far from true, that there are actually a lot of places people can turn besides the emergency room to get free preventative health screenings and a limited scope of care. The powers that be have already, before Congress signed anything, begun to realistically offer help to those who can't get their scrambled worried heads around the idea of how to take care of their own health.
It is in that unscrambling, the relief of worry, that we will solve the health care problem. An expert in the field, Paul Knutson, a mission development specialist for a healthcare facility in Minnesota, offered up the idea that, instead of just focusing as we have for the last 50 to 80 years on accute care, on managing 'chronic disease,' we have to look more closely at the "social determinants of health, most notably the environment, social inclusion, employment and food choices."
We have, he said, focused far too much simply on offering access to medication. Doctors come in with prescription pads to fix problems that should have, could have been prevented had we thought to have the conversation long before it was a problem. But we haven't been able to afford to find someone to talk to. Maybe now, hopefully, that will change. Mr. Knutson said that just knowing one has access to a relationship with a doctor can help immensely.
"Research has shown that if a child can name their doctor, they're healthier...but so many times there is a fee for service upfront so that doesn't happen," he said.
Maybe, now, it will. Gold stars go out to Mr. Knutson and all those in the trenches who will be charged with carrying out the laws of the higher powers, who will have to figure out exactly what "health care reform" means. But the first step, as anyone knows, is admitting there is a problem, not just trying to forge forward on a faulty premise. We cannot take care of ourselves. We need help. We need to be able to reach out to people who might help us worry less about our health, not that they always are sure how to fix us but who can at least partner with us to figure it. Together, we have a far better chance of feeling better.
I am cautiously optimistic. The passage of the health care reform bill, like election night, where simply choosing a seemingly fair-minded democrat with a sweeping idealistic promise of "Change" seemed a bit early to drink champagne in celebration, is just the beginning of a long, hard road.
We have a lot of lobbies to appease, lots of groups whose living is predicated on dealing with disease, whose jobs are in jeopardy if we solve some of the nation's ills. Like with any reasonably effective pharmaceutical, the best we seem to be able to do at any given time, when we solve one problem, is to create another. I hope there are a lot of great minds giving a great deal of thought to how we should go forward, great minds that are masterful at making our country's leader and his minions pay close attention and act. Change doesn't happen overnight, I know. It has taken us a fair number of decades to get into this mess, mixing business with how we take care of our country's bodies. It will take us a while to unwind the complicated cords we have created. But it's so awesome that ears seem to be open, that are ready to discuss, realistically, how we might in fact change, that a majority has spoken in recognition of the need for change. YEAH!!!