By Dr. STEVE PRENTICE
We've seen in recent days vague proposals floated by Washington politicians on how to solve the ever-growing healthcare economic crisis. As the federal government paves the way to take over 17 percent of the U.S. economy, the debate rages over how to deal with out-of-control healthcare costs, increased demand for healthcare services, ever-increasing health insurance premiums and the crippling effect they are having on businesses and families.
Rather than simply focusing on who should pay for what, we should be examining the flawed philosophy that got us to this point in the first place. Ultimately, the only true solution to our healthcare crisis is to fundamentally change the way we view health.
The fatal flaw in our society's health philosophy is that it is based on the presence of symptoms. In other words, if you feel good you're healthy, and if you feel bad you're sick. This belief is the fundamental reason why healthcare is crippling our economy.
When we talk about our healthcare system today we're not really talking about healthcare. A more accurate description would be to call it sickcare. It's the treatment of a disease or a condition that is already present. There's a huge difference between maintaining health and treating a disease, not the least of which is cost.
Treating disease in a sickcare model is incredibly expensive and since our entire healthcare system is set up to treat disease after it occurs, it's no wonder that costs are out of control. Again, the reason why our healthcare system is so focused on the treatment of disease is because we've been taught that unless a person is experiencing some kind of pain or other symptom, then they're not sick.
Relying on symptoms can be tragically misleading. Heart disease, cancer, strokes and diabetes are the leading causes of death in the U.S. and it's important to realize that none of these conditions have symptoms associated with them until the end stage. It's alsocritical to realize these conditions do not develop overnight. In fact, they take years, if not decades, to develop. This means that if we are relying on symptoms to tell us when we need to address our health then we will continue to spend enormous amounts of money to treat diseases that could have easily been prevented because we will have waited too long.
The only real solution to our healthcare crisis is to shift the focus toward the prevention of disease and the maintenance of health both on an individual level and at the policy level as well. This does not mean our health system should turn its back on those that are already sick. It simply means the system should do everything it can to encourage those activities that preserve and create health instead of just focusing on symptom relief.
We as individuals must let go of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude and realize the absence of pain does not necessarily mean we are healthy. We must seek out those practices that encourage and preserve health such as wellness chiropractic care, exercise, a healthy diet and stress-reduction techniques and make a commitment to utilize them regardless of how we feel. When enough people incorporate these strategies the demand for expensive, late-stage disease treatment will plummet and the cost savings would be enough to alter our entire economy.
We must also be willing to take responsibility for ourselves and not leave our health in the hands of insurance companies, employers or the government. We must be willing to invest a little toward our own well-being. We don't expect our car insurance to pay for new tires, oil changes and new wiper blades for our cars and we don't expect our homeowners insurance to pay for light bulbs, carpet cleaning or lawn maintenance. We shouldn't expect the government to provide those things either. We need to get away from thinking we should not be required to pay for our own health maintenance and be willing to invest at least as much into ourselves as we do our cars and homes.
In the end, it will be our individual lifestyles and choices that will determine the future of healthcare in America because the healthcare crisis will not be solved by the government. The fundamental shift by consumers away from symptom-based health care and toward prevention and self-responsibility is the only way to lower costs, lower medical utilization, improve health and save the economy.