Health Care Reform 101 by Gregg Hake

I’ve often wondered if common sense could be applied to complex issues.  Take health care reform for example.  To describe it as labyrinthine would be an understatement.  With stakeholders galore, political, financial, social, commercial, religious, ethical interests tussle for supremacy.  Did I mention the seven billion lives at stake?  What a wonderful challenge!

Where to begin?  Perhaps with a few observations…  The design of the body is marvelous.  It adapts to a wide variety of climates.  It runs on all types of fuels.  It is self-healing in all but the most extreme cases.  It is capable of amazing feats and if you doubt that, go marvel at a performance by Cirque du Soleil, read about the Haitian man who survived 27 days under the rubble, take a look at the astronauts currently on the Space Station, and I could go on! 

That said, your body has its limits.  Sleep too little, work too hard, eat an imbalanced diet and eventually the edges will begin to fray.   The performance envelope shrinks and “I just can’t do what I used to do” or “It takes me so much longer to recover after exertion” replace the sense of invincibility and limitless capability you likely enjoyed in your youth.

Recently, scientists in Germany observed that intense exercise over time improves “telomere biology,” meaning, that intense exercise extends the lifespan of your cells  Likewise, many studies are concluding that a balanced diet that goes light on alcohol, sugar and highly refined or processed ingredients can likewise make a big difference in overall health.  So, we are finding data to support the maxim as an ounce of prevention really is worth at least a pound of cure!  

We live in a world where chonic disease has spread like kudzu.  Hold your breath and read this summary by the World Health Organization (WHO):

“Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Disease rates from these conditions are accelerating globally, advancing across every region and pervading all socioeconomic classes. The World Health Report 2002: Reducing risks, promoting healthy life, indicates that the mortality, morbidity and disability attributed to the major chronic diseases currently account for almost 60% of all deaths and 43% of the global burden of disease. By 2020 their contribution is expected to rise to 73% of all deaths and 60% of the global burden of disease. Moreover, 79% of the deaths attributed to these diseases occur in the developing countries. Four of the most prominent chronic diseases – cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and type 2 diabetes – are linked by common and preventable biological risk factors, notably high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and overweight, and by related major behavioural risk factors: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use. Action to prevent these major chronic diseases should focus on controlling these and other key risk factors in a well-integrated manner.”

So, the bulk of the problem is due to “common and preventable” factors.  Brilliant!  There is our starting point.  Perhaps we can resolve a complex issue with common sense, after all!  But how would that look?  We’ll take a look at simple starting points for avoiding the well worn path to death and disability in future posts.

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