TIME Magazine printed an important story in its January 10, 2011 issue. Get Wellness by Francine Russo. The story points out the Medicare change that will now pay for one wellness consultation a year. For the first time, physicians can get paid for not treating disease, but for actually trying to prevent it. And the new health reform act provides other incentives and requirements for preventive wellness programs and counseling. The US health care (actually sick care) system would be wise to accelerate this new focus on prevention and wellness to balance its concentration on medical care and disease.
My main concern about last year’s health insurance reform act focused still on the sick care system, and gave too short shrift to behavioral preventive care. As the TIME article points out, about 3/4ths of the two and a half trillion dollar “health care costs stems from chronic disease, many of which may be prevented by lifestyle choices.” Indeed, a person’s own habits of exercise, eating and living are far more important, except for emergencies or accidents, to his or her health status than the entire medical care system. Little wonder that belatedly, insurance companies and health care providers are allocating resources to helping people help themselves live lifestyles that delay and prevent common infirmities. But as the TIME piece points out, most physicians are ill-equipped, by training and by incentive, to know anything about helping people adopt these positive health behaviors. The TIME article even included a graphic indicating the health wisdom of getting in 10,000 steps per day. How often do you see something like that at the doctor’s office?
Some good changes have taken place without much medical intervention. In the last generation, the USA has made substantial progress in one of the health care behaviors of its citizens. The rate of cigarette smoking has dropped in USA. This major cause of mortality and morbidity has waned, mainly though actions and social changes such as declaring no-smoking areas. Physicians have probably helped here some by advising patients to quit. In reality, though, a cigarette smoking habit should be seen as life-threatening by a doctor and an area for major concentration. Cigarettes still kill over 400,000 Americans each year, so there is a long way to go.
In other health behaviors, the news is less good. Distressingly, the past generation has seen a huge increase in Americans (and many of those in other lands) becoming obese. This trend is predisposing millions of people towards increased illness, disability and death by Type II Diabetes and other obesity-related maladies. The medical care industries can do little to cure these behavior-related diseases. These are essentially caused by poor health habits and can be cured only by healthy lifestyles. Once a year Medicare wellness consultations may help, but really obesity is now a pediatric disease, with victims as young as two years old. Fat babies usually become fat children and fat children usually become fat adults.
Blissful brains depend on strong bodies to support them. Bliss out your brain, improve your health and extend your life by taking 10,0000 steps per day, getting aerobic activity, doing weight training and eating right. A health-promoting lifestyle is your open-source health care. It is something you choose and do yourself. Perhaps now, though, some of you can even get a little preventive help with Medicare.