Are we practicing healthcare or diseasecare?

The United States is often referred to as the “greatest nation in the world”.  While other countries might want to debate this, I do know that we are the greatest in the world at health care spending relative to our economy’s size. [1] One might think that with all this spending we are receiving superior care, maybe even the best. However, a study of this subject by consulting firm McKinsey & Co reveals that even though we spend the most, our quality of care was actually the worst.

While consuming goods is not inherently bad, the consumption of health care begs the question, “Where is all this spending going, only to receive so little in return?”  According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one devoted to improving health and healthcare for Americans, 75% of the US’ health care spending is due to chronic disease treatment.

It’s easy to look at this as an overwhelming problem, but the positive is that we also know that chronic diseases are very preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites that “researchers and practitioners at national, state, and local levels have designed, tested, and implemented effective programs and policies for chronic disease prevention and control, many at very little cost.” The problem is, there is virtually no money to be made in prevention. Our current health care system isn’t really set up to prevent disease, it’s set up to treat it after it has happened.  Money is made on the back end in the form of pills and surgeries instead of helping people proactively live a healthier lifestyle.  We usually treat the symptom as opposed to the true problem that is causing the symptoms. Rather than health-care, it is disease-care.

This is not a critique on the current health care system. There are flaws in it, and we as a nation have come to know and admit this.  The point is that with problems, come opportunity.  In order to change, we need to change our mindset and make prevention a top priority to prevent chronic disease in this country.  We will all have to work together: schools, governments, communities, large and small businesses, politicians, and religious organizations can- and will need to- work together to improve the health of Americans.

Wellness initiatives in the workplace, where a large majority of our time is spent, are one potential solution to the problem. Hundreds of businesses have seen results from these prevention-based initiatives in not only return on investment, but also an improved workplace culture.  If employees are healthier, studies have shown that they are also happier and ultimately more productive.

Sam Lopez
Health Educator