Archive for December, 2009

A New Paradigm for Health

President Obama is a truly ambitious man. Only a few months into his presidency, after taking on the cataclysm of the world’s economic crisis and confronting world leaders with his frank realism and honesty, he has now shifted his focus on our system of healthcare. Interestingly, the response is the same—those most comfortable in the status quo are nervous.

But on this measure, the nervous include former supporters as well as foes. It seems that healthcare is a rather personal matter, and everyone has an invested interest. Quite possibly, this may be his most difficult challenge yet. 

On the surface, it seems as though the controversial truths about Obamacare are concerning because they may limit, or even eliminate, our sense of control over our health and well being. There is no question that Obama supporters and non-supporters alike are anxious about what each detail might translate into for them and their families—access and cost seem to be the dominant issues. However, regardless of what got us here, and without getting into a discussion on taxation and politics, Americans are now facing the facts and are at a crossroad—to maintain the status quo of a dysfunctional, expensive and ineffective system which provides limited, albeit familiar care, or move on to a system that requires greater personal accountability and effort. Indeed, our culture, with all its “advances” has led to the atrophy of our common sense when it comes to our own health. Our ability to care for ourselves is at an all time low. More than that, we have been misled by the seduction of products that promise to promote our health even in the face of the obvious self-serving agenda behind them.

 To say that we have gotten into the habit of taking our bodies and minds to doctors much in the same way that we take our cars to the mechanic for a tune-up would be a severe understatement. In fact, the average American is more apt to ask their mechanic why their alternator doesn’t work, than to ask their doctor why they’ve contracted the flu. More importantly, the sad fact is, the mechanic is more likely to provide an answer that makes sense. No longer can we rely on doctors to help us deal with our lives between crises. Simply stated, doctors are not trained to help us live better lives; instead their focus is on how to deal with disease. This needs to change.

 It is time that we wake up.

 Personally and professionally, I’m not sure what President Obama is proposing. I’ll admit, then, that is a fundamental problem. But, I do admire his keen focus on the issue of personal responsibility and an agenda that seems to be requiring all of us to reconsider the status quo. I certainly would like to see him center his message on the value of prevention and quality and not so much on what seems to be a defensive response, namely the economic justification of his plan–of course, we know that a healthier America is the most cost-effective strategy. More so, I’d like to see him broaden his endorsement of a more holistic approach to health. Our over-reliance on a somewhat flawed scientific model has contributed to our dismissal of other systems of healing that could be quite useful in today’s world.  Without getting into the controversial debate about “how,” it is time that we at least accept and acknowledge the potential benefits of other approaches. It is imperative that we be truthful and open-minded and work to “integrate” our healthcare system and be more committed to seeking those things that work. We can no longer afford to be otherwise.

 In the debate that will follow, I would urge the president to speak more toward the issues of the quality of life in America. Certainly, our individual and collective health is essential to the ideals he expressed in his campaign and which he has continued to emphasize in his nascent presidency. Further, it will take his courage and tenacity to overcome those who are wed to current system as a result of greed or political interests. It is time for a new paradigm for health, one that requires each of us to take charge of our own lives, requiring us to get the right information from the right sources. Clearly, common sense and wisdom will be needed to guide us through the transition. Let’s hope we really do it this time.

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