Dear Nurse Chris: I am watching the national debate on health care very closely and wondering what would really make a difference in how healthy we all are? What’s your prescription for how to change the system to do a better job? Marcy in Hinsdale
Dear Marcy: Your question shows one of the problems with our system. We are an “illness-treating-nation” that wants to avoid being sick, but we’re not always as focused on staying well. This is not just a semantic word game.
I definitely think that the biggest improvement in healthcare would be keeping people healthy as opposed to treating their illness.
It’s not as if the way we do health care is the only proven method. In China, people go to the doctor to stay well, and when they become ill they fire their doctor and find a new one who will keep them healthy.
In the United States, we go to the doctor to get well by fixing what is wrong.
Americans think in terms of mechanisms being repaired, like a car with a bad carburetor. We tend to pay less attention to how to keep the car running perfectly before something goes wrong. Plus, every serious study about why things cost so much in our health system always goes back to the lack of preventive care. Fixing 300 million carburetors after they break can be very expensive.
I like the Chinese way of thinking.
The medicine that is practiced here is really focused on treating symptoms as opposed to preventing the illness. There is an American mindset that we should be able to take a pill and feel better. All too often there are many things a person can do to improve health but it takes focus and commitment.