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Healthcare and the Pope

Ruth Haag • Nov 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Pope Francis came out with an inspirational idea a few weeks ago when he said that the Catholic Church was placing too much focus on birth control, abortion, contraception and gay marriage, adding that the Church is a home for all.  He said that it is not necessary to talk about these issue all of the time; there are lots of other things to focus on; things like helping other people and serving the poor and marginalized.  This seemed really wise to me, and inspired me to think the same way about our U.S. healthcare debate.

Health issues in the United States

While we like to think that the United States is superior to all other countries in all ways, in healthcare we are woefully behind.  The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which is a 34 nation-member economic group says that the United States has 2.4 practicing physicians per 1,000 people, when the OECD average is 3.1.  United States hospital beds are 2.6 per 1,000 with the OCED average being 3.4.  Life expectance at birth for United States citizens is 78.7 years while the OECD average is 79.8.  But the United States does rank higher in expenditures on healthcare coming in at 2 ½ times the OECD average.  So, our healthcare system costs more and delivers less.  Clearly, spending more isn’t going to get us healthier.  Maybe we should try something radically different.

Lately I have been noticing that most conversations that I have with other people and that I hear other people having, seem to focus on illness and medical procedures.  Could it be that in the United States we have become too focused on medicine and illness?  Talking about it all the time doesn’t seem to be helping anything.

Why not take a lesson from the Pope, and stop focusing only on health care and health insurance; instead let’s think and talk about other things, like helping other people for instance?  I know that this will be difficult because everywhere we look we are bombarded with advertisements for medicines, medical procedures and information about health insurance.  So to start this slowly, let’s designate next Saturday as a day when none of us will think about or discuss our personal health issues.  Do you think you can do it?

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