The second part of my healthcare is going to focus on the biggest driver of our costs. Us. I know that sounds a little painful but it is the truth. We have brought the system to its knees.
There is a common thought that there are two types of medicine; Western and Eastern. This is not wholly inaccurate but I would like to challenge that there should only be one type of medicine.
Eastern medicine is considered a more holistic approach to caring for the body, incorporating a mind, body, spirit mentality. The goal tends to focus on preventing disease before it occurs. Western medicine is considered targeted medicine, focusing on the current problem and fixing that, as opposed to trying to prevent the problem to begin with. Eastern medicine, stop heart disease before it happens. Western medicine, triple bypass after a heart attack.
These are not two opposite systems. The notion that one type of medicine treats disease before it happens and the other only after it happens is false. Vaccines are an excellent example of Western medicine preventing disease before it happens. Yoga after a mental breakdown is an excellent example of Eastern medicine treating disease after it has occurred.
I am not advocating one over the other, I am advocating for both. There is a knot in my plan, however. YOU.
In our current society we want the quick fix and, trying to be politically correct, we have embraced the idea that unhealthy practices are not wrong, but a persons choice. Cool. My current favorite TV show is My 600lbs Life. Talk about heebee jeebees. My husband things I am morbid for watching the show. I think it is fascinating. These men and women are killing themselves with food. It would be like watching My Heroin Life, but since the substance is illegal all the people would go to jail. While watching this show there are advertisements for My Fat Fabulous Life. WHAT? You are airing a program that is showing the worst of our morbidly obese society and then advertising a show that glamorizes obesity? *Head explodes*.
I am not here to shame fat. I am here to say obesity is unhealthy. I do not care if you don’t have problems now. It is simply a matter of time.
This is a hugely complex problem. We tend to be ostriches when it comes to our health. Nothing is wrong until it goes very wrong. We bury our heads in the sand and pretend that our lifestyle is normal and ignore the health risks associated with it.
Obesity- one of the top contributors to a wide range of health issues including, but not limited to, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes, multiple cancers, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Smoking- one of the leading risk factors of a multitude of cancers, stroke, and hearth disease, as well as being lined to mental health issues.
Excessive drinking- one of the leading causes of liver disease, cancer, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, as well as mental health issues.
Stress- One of the leading risk factors for obesity, smoking, and excessive drinking.
None of these are new phenomena and nothing I have said so far has shocked anyone. What is shocking is that most of us will continue with our current lifestyle, making minimum effort to change what is wrong in our lives.
This is normal. Like I said in my previous post the US population will work itself into the ground to make money then spend all of the money to fix it’s health issues RIGHT NOW. I know it took me a decade to get to 600+lbs. Make me skinny now! I know I have been smoking three packs a day for the past 20 years, give me a patch to make me stop and replace my lungs now! I know I have been drinking like a fish for most of my life, give me some Ativan to control the withdraw symptoms and replace my liver now! Madness!
This is what drives up our healthcare costs to the extreme. This page taken from the CDC website states that chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal and liver disease, cancer, etc.) were 7 of the top 10 causes of death in 2012, with cancer and heart disease taking a whopping 48% combined. Read that again if you need to. These numbers are disturbing.
So, what happened and how did we get like this? Like I said, this is a complex socioeconomic problem that interacts with our psychosomatic systems. Our current social structure doesn’t support healthy living mentally or physically.
I am going to discuss this from a middle-class perspective, as that is what I am, and delve a bit into how this is more complicated for the working poor and poor. We are, after all, the other 98% of the population.
And what is this mythical beast that keeps us unhealthy rats running on a wheel that continues to drive healthcare costs through the roof? DEBT. I wish I were joking. If you asked 100 of your friends and family what they would do if they won the lottery 98 of them would tell you they would pay off their debt first. They would then quit their jobs, take an expensive vacation, buy their dream car, build their dream house, and do whatever they want.
Problem! No one will mention changing their unhealthy habits. No one mention saving money for the future expenses of said belongings. Pretty much no one has an extended plan with that new Get Out Of Jail Free card. The lottery is a golden egg that cures all of right-now’s problems but does nothing for the future. Why? Because no one links their unhealthy habits to their debt. No one links the 60-100h work weeks or the three jobs to their unhealthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, because they have to pay the bills, but they will buy that PS4 on credit because it’s the only thing they’ve got going for them. It’s a bleak picture, but I promise if you didn’t have to work so much you could do the things you need to keep your health in balance.
I feel like this has sort of spiraled off topic so let me highlight several things:
- Rising healthcare costs are driven by the consumer. We want it good and we want it fast, which means it will be expensive.
- The consumer does not take care of their health appropriately. We as a society glorify health without enacting healthy behaviors or we glorify unhealthy people in an effort to be politically correct.
- I want to eat healthier. Are you going to turn into one of those health nuts?
- I want to work out. Oh no, are you going to be a gym junkie?
- I want to reduce the stress in my life and work less. You’re lazy.
- It’s OK that I am teetering on the edge of obesity as long as I love my body.
- Binging on alcohol is totally normal in your early 20’s. Everyone does it. It’s called partying.
- The consumer ignores the mental aspect of health as “fake” and “in your head” without understanding the complex dynamic between the mind and body.
- Because of unhealthy consumer habits (increasing debt) in a system driven by the false assumption of capitalism and democracy, the consumer put’s their health and family on the back burner to earn more money, then spends all the money on health when it fails.
This is a chronic condition in the US. I see it and live it every day. I am not here to preach to you. I am sitting on $200,000 of debt myself and I was forced to slow down due to poor health choices. I am speaking to you from the bottom of what we consider middle class. These things are only exacerbated as you go down in socioeconomic class. The working poor and poor don’t even pretend to have access to quality living conditions, quality food, or quality healthcare.
From these poor conditions huge healthcare costs are incurred. The leading cause of healthcare spending is on chronic disease most of which could have been prevented or minimized with a healthy lifestyle. Healthy lifestyles are supported by healthy habits with money. Healthy habits with money are a learned behavior. And now we circle back to what I said in my first blog. All of our systems are broken because our education system is broken and does not adequately prepare us for life.
Alright, this was another long post. I hope I adequately laid out why the consumer is just as big a driver of healthcare costs as insurance companies and Big Pharma. My next and final post on this topic will be about leading a healthy lifestyle from a medical professionals perspective. Again, keep your comments positive and productive!