Until the age of 69 (I´m now 77) I purchased medical insurance. Because it was so expensive, especially as a senior citizen, I had to increase the deductible every year. As of age 65 the insurance costs would creep up approximately 25% every year. I saw that this was fast becoming unsustainable for me. Fortunately, the previous year I had begun a Whole Food Plant Based diet (WFPB) and was already experiencing some of the benefits. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could jump off the health insurance merry-go-round that I had been on for the previous 20 years. It was a critical decision, not only because nobody else I knew had done it, but also because my closest friends kept reminding me of the risks involved. What if, god forbid, something should ever happen to me. I have to agree that the threat was and still is logical. Living in Mexico I did have coverage for emergencies with Social Security (paid for by my company) but, since the care being offered at the S.S. clinics are somewhat questionable, I know that I would use it only as a last resort.
Anyway, I decided to take the leap by cancelling my health insurance and made the commitment to become more responsible for my own health and wellbeing. I combined whole plant based foods with a few lifestyle changes, such as 1) exercising five days a week, 2) stress reduction through meditation and avoiding stressful situations, 3) staying active, 4) building relationships and 5) doing what provides me with a feeling of purpose. My resolution was to focus on avoiding chronic diseases (i.e., heart, cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis) and to live a thriving life…during my later years. From my experience and research, I became convinced that since birth, our body is programmed to heal itself…if we give it the proper respect, attention and care.
Contemplating on the premise that the ideal Health Care System should help me achieve my resolution, I pose the question…
What if doctors were paid only when they keep us healthy or cure our illness or disease?
I googled this and came up with:
“In China over a hundred years ago one only paid the doctor when he was well; if you got sick you didn’t pay because the doctor had not done his job which was to keep you healthy. The doctor then treated you for free until you were well again. One would see the doctor on a regular basis for acupuncture, herbs, diet and lifestyle guidance. This was the ultimate model for preventative medicine.”
Maybe the above sounds “too good to be true” but don´t most businesses work that way? Would you pay your automobile mechanic if he doesn´t fix your car or your dentist if he pulled the wrong tooth?
Unfortunately, doctors around the world are incentivized, privately and through health insurance, to treat disease instead of preventing it and keeping us well. In general, instead of being proactive they are reactive.
Medicare insurance in the United States is no different. According to orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Irvin Sanhi:
“The system is designed to create chronic disease. There’s no money in being healthy. There’s no money in being dead. All the money is in being chronically ill. Receiving Medicare at 65 should be a blessing. Unfortunately, Medicare doctors are paid more to keep you sick than to keep you healthy. I can see four patients an hour by simply flipping from one drug to the next and make 400 dollars. Or, I could sit there for 45 minutes and actually educate the patient, try to help them prevent their disease, to truly find solutions, true healthcare solutions, but I’m only going to get 60 dollars doing that.”
So, is there a health care system that is interested in keeping us healthy?
Case in point…Canada.
The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion
The First International Conference on Health Promotion, Ottawa, 21 November 1986, states…
“The responsibility for health promotion in health services should be shared among individuals, community groups, health professionals, health service institutions and governments.
They must work together towards a health care system which contributes to the pursuit of health. The role of the health sector must move increasingly in a health promotion direction, beyond its responsibility for providing clinical and curative services. Health services need to embrace an expanded mandate which is sensitive and respects cultural needs. This mandate should support the needs of individuals and communities for a healthier life, and open channels between the health sector and broader social, political, economic and physical environmental components.
Reorienting health services also requires stronger attention to health research as well as changes in professional education and training. This must lead to a change of attitude and organization of health services which refocuses on the total needs of the individual as a whole person.”
Is the Following a Step in the Right Direction?
CANADA´S 2019 FOOD GUIDE
“EAT WELL. LIVE WELL.” These are the bold words emblazoned across the top of the 2019 Canada´s Food Guide. After months of speculation about this important government document, Canada’s Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor just unveiled the new guide at a press conference in Montreal.
The new food guide is much wider in scope than the old, single-page rainbow food guide. It also offers an online suite of resources including actionable advice, videos and even recipes at (www.canada.ca/FoodGuide).
Canada’s New Food Guide’s Recommendations on Healthy Eating:
• Have plenty of vegetables and fruits (visually: half your plate)
• Eat protein foods (visually: a quarter of your plate). Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.
• Choose whole-grain foods (visually: a quarter of your plate)
• Make water your drink of choice
Limit highly processed foods. If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in small amounts.
Note: The lack of milk and other dairy products as part of the guide was swiftly called out by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
Canadians are also reminded to cook more often, eat meals with others, be mindful of their eating habits, and enjoy food. It also advises us to read food labels, be aware of food marketing and limit foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat.
Until the day when the foundations of health care and health insurance are based on actually taking care of people´s health and well being we´ll continue to be dependent on the present systems that focus primarily on disease care. The Canadian example shows that, for things to change for the better, there needs to be a shift of awareness and in priorities among members of the medical profession. That includes a commitment to educate the public on disease prevention and reversal, based on non biased information (i.e., not funded by industry), while offering lifestyle changes, like the ones I mention above, that could help to make optimal health and well being a reality.