Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Affordable Care Act Does Not Equal Good Health

If I hear or read one more comment about the Affordable Care Act –a.k.a.“Obamacare”- I’m going to scream. With our relentless obsession over this political hot potato, we have now become a society that believes that to have some assurances of health, you must have health insurance. We are focusing on “sick” care versus “health” care. I wonder what would happen if just a quarter of the energy being used to fight over this issue was put into creating environments that promote health and well being? 

 Yes, we do need some form of universal health care. Yes, it is a big change and a lot of confusion should be expected, much as it's been for the launch of many other major initiatives. My concern is that the intense and seemingly never ending battle about it is helping to erode our understanding of what we as individuals and community can and should be doing to maximize health.

The basics of a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, which could significantly reduce the impact of many chronic conditions, most often are categorized as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and not part of the main stream. Yet, if we adopted this as a way to live our lives, the need for health insurance and health care could be significantly reduced.

Whenever I interject these comments into discussions about Obamacare, I’m always asked, “so how do you fix it?” The solution rests in individuals and communities recognizing their importance and responsibility in promoting and leading healthy lives.

The best example for how to go about this is Blue Zones. Initially started by National Geographic to identify those places in the world where people live the longest, the project has continued to expand into new directions. Having identified the characteristics of communities and people where longevity is high, these Power 9  are being introducing  into communities where there is a desire to improve health and well-being. Blue Zones Project by Healthways 

The newly developing Blue Zones communities are being tracked by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, measure of U.S. residents’ daily heath and well-being. Unless I missed it, having life insurance isn’t on this index, though there are a lot of health insurers interested in this research as initial results indicate this is a good way to reduce costs. 

Interestingly, when I talk about the Blue Zones to health professionals I encounter, I would say at least  8 out of 10 have never heard of it. Why is that? If I were to guess, it's because they are so focused on a particular condition or aspect of health care that they aren't looking at root issues and the bigger picture. Also, because many of the Power 9 (stress reduction, diet, movement, spirituality etc.) fall into the CAM camp, it's easily dismissed as not being "hard science."

Health reform is desperately needed. Where do we put our time and effort? In health insurance? In creating communities where the healthy choice is the easy one? Can we invest in more than one approach or a more balanced approach?

For all of you who are weary of the debate, below are resources to help you and your communities lead healthier lives:

Healing the Whole Person: Ways to Increase Well-Being  While designed for those affected by chronic and/or life-threatening conditions, it’s relevant for all.

• The Power 9 from Blue Zones: The common factors found in places around the world where people live the longest. 

Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where you are No matter how healthy we are, we all will develop something as our final outcome is predetermined. These are ways that individuals, community and hospitals can help when that happens. 

• Are Zombie Doctors Taking Over America? Zubin Damania’s talk at Ted Med. He is the Director of Healthcare Development for Downtown Project Las Vegas. He is working on a health care model that does not revolve around insurance. 

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