Monday, July 2, 2012

Resolving the Health Care Crisis

Few things stir up emotion and opinion like the recent health care debate. The line in the sand has been drawn and there is little toeing the line. Many people are either outraged or inspired and both can't wait until November. What's seemingly lost in all of the statistical sword fighting and op ed warfare is the fact that we have great control in resolving significant pieces of the health care crisis. We can change this, starting now.

Health care experts fear a dramatic increase in health care costs if nothing is done to mitigate America’s obesity crisis. A recent study projects that 42% of Americans may end up obese by 2030 (with 11% being severely obese). These figures could result in billions of new health care expenses. (Hellmich, Nanci, "Obesity Could Affect 42% of Americans by 2030", USA TODAY, 5/8/12).

This is old news; we know this. Seven years ago, Dr. Raphael Levey spoke at a health care summit and said, "A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and by and large behavioral. Even as far back as when I was in medical school (Harvard, 1955) many articles demonstrated that 80% of the health-care budget was consumed by five behavioral issues." We know the issues: too much stress, smoking, and drinking; too little exercise and nutritionally rich foods. (Deutschman, Alan, "Change or Die," Fast Company, May 2005). Why is there such a wide action gap between knowing the issues and doing something about them?

We've known for decades that behavioral issues and lifestyle choices drive obesity and the associated diseases. Yet, we face statistical forecasts showing that almost half of our country may be obese in the not-too-distant future. Where is the disconnect?  It's because fear doesn't motivate.

About 1.3 million heart patients have angioplasties and another 600,000 have bypass surgeries every year at a cost of approximately $30 billion. These are often short-term solutions to difficulties experienced by heart disease patients. Many return for additional surgeries and, according to reports, 90% of these patients have failed to switch to healthier lifestyles. However, a unique therapy approach has reversed these morbid statistics. What was the method? Doctors reframed the fear of dying into the joy of living. Patients found for themselves the joys in playing with their grandchildren in the park and the motivation swelled. A deeper meaning had to be found. And, as it was, the patients embraced hope and worked toward living rather than trying to escape death. (Deutschman, Alan, "Change or Die," Fast Company, May 2005).

Steve Denning reported on the ten happiest and the ten most hated jobs (Forbes, 9/12/11). Interestingly, the jobs with the better compensation and higher social statuses did not translate to increased happiness. (The happiest jobs included Clergy, Firefighters, and Physical Therapists. The most hated jobs included Director of Information Technology, Director of Sales and Marketing, and Product Manager). Denning states that the fundamental aspect of our careers, and our lives, is that they're meaningful. He states that the person living the life must be engaged by it and the work must be worthwhile. Again, fear doesn't motivate. The fear of not having enough, of a lack of provision, and of economic instability doesn't carry the sustainable drive that the joy of doing meaningful work fosters.

In a recent interview, author Ann Voskamp talks about the intense days of running a household of 8 while writing her best-selling book, One Thousand Gifts. (Olasky, Marvin, "The Write Way," World, 7/14/12) She said that she would write after the children were in bed from about 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. and then find a few hours of sleep for herself. Her husband, a farmer, was doing his work while also home schooling all of the children and doing many of the household chores. She said that when she felt that she couldn't continue that pace, her husband would encourage by reminding her that they believed this was God's chosen path for them. And they'd go on another day. Fear screamed for surrender, but didn't motivate. In fact, fear faded in the light of meaningful, purposeful work as they believed in a Greater Story.

The health care debate is loud. The trump card of fear is routinely played by those hoping to scare the opposition into folding. Maybe it's time we leave the playing table and step away from the game because we know that fear doesn't motivate. Instead, let's propose a platform of purpose. Let's promote change by encouraging others to embrace the joy of living, find comfort in community, and seek life transformation. 

To a significant extent, we can control health care costs by caring for ourselves and others well. Deep happiness can be found in our careers by engaging in meaningful work and serving others. And we can persevere by finding purpose beyond ourselves and pointing others to the same.

2 comments:

KChripczuk said...

This is great, Matt. I was so dreading the polarity of the upcoming political season (esp. in social media), but recently I've seen several sane posts and pleas from friends that, rather than narrowing the argument via fear, broaden the discussion in hopeful and meaningful ways - yours is one of them. I have to say that I believe this is what the gospels show Jesus doing time and time again - reframing tired discussions in a way that invited people to do the hard work of moving forward with hope and commitment. Now let me go do my part in changing the future health of america by convincing my children to pick and eat the green beans in our garden!

Matt said...

Thanks, Kelly. I grow tired of the ranting and tend to check out. Instead, I need to take action in the small seemingly insignificant changes that I can affect everyday. Often it's simply in not checking out, but rather responding differently that can make a difference both in my life and, God-willing, in the lives of others. Hope that the kids enjoyed the beans!