The other day I went for a regular medical checkup with a doctor I had not seen before. I haven’t been to a regular medical office in a while now. First I was struck by how impersonal and cold everything was in the physical office space. I felt like less of a person instantly. When it was time to see the doctor, she was very nice and friendly, but my whole visit from walking in the door to her leaving was five minutes long. Thank goodness I’m healthy and it was no problem. Lets not mention the visit cost $200 if I’d paid out of pocket.
We all agree that our country is having a health care crisis, but no one can agree on the solution, despite endless posturing and finger-pointing by the “right” and the “left.” While other advanced countries somehow manage to provide medical care without breaking the national budget and still give people adequate care, we spend more on health care than any of them and yet have worse outcomes!
I can go on and on, as everyone has about the insurance and drug industries being the biggest lobbies in congress and controlling how our system is administered. The problem is deeper than that. Two key elements of our current crisis that no one speaks of, are the loss of caring for each other, and the fact that we have given up our control in relation to our own health. Drug companies wouldn’t be where they are in the power structure if we hadn’t allowed it to happen.
Somewhere along the line, we lost the prevention, caring and healing aspect of health care. I remember in medical school, early in my training I was educated not to show any emotion and not have any “personal” caring for my patients. The idea was if I got too personally involved I wouldn’t do my job well because I might forget what needs to be done. Instead of us learning how to deal with our emotions and work through them, we were taught not to have any.
Over the last 20+ years I’ve been on a personal journey of self-discovery parallel to constantly improving my learning as a complementary physician who blends Chinese and Western medicine. I’ve discovered that one of the keys to my work is the attention and caring I bring. It has never interfered with my judgment about what will be the most effective treatment for my patients, and it has never stopped me from recommending the tests or procedures they need.
Since World War II our medical system has changed more and more toward doctors being the ultimate authority about what is wrong with us. People have given up their power over their own health to someone who is considered an expert. In many cases, we require a medical expert to know what to look for, and know how to solve a problem, but we have given it up so much that we don’t pay attention to our physical health until something is wrong.
In large part, we have given up our power so much that we think we don’t have to have any responsibility for taking care of our own bodies. We think we can eat what we want, exercise minimally, and indulge however we want because big daddy medical system is going to take care of us when we get ill. As an example, obesity is continuing to rise at alarming rates every year. From 1960-2006, the number of obese Americans went from 13% to 35% of the population. Each year the number increases. This is in spite of education to eat more healthy food. Obesity increases the risk of many diseases including, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
We are living ever more stressful lives, not taking care of our bodies, and when illness comes, running to the doctors hoping to solve the problems. If we want to solve the health care crisis, we need to start at home, with how we live our lives, manage our stress, eat our food, and treat each other.