It makes sense. Health care is our Titanic.
In what other country do you spend 18% of your total economy on a crazy, dysfunctional system which ranks you 50th in the world for lifespan (according to the CIA). In the U.S. we have a “system” where appendectomies in the same market can cost $1, 500 or $183, 000, and debt collectors sit interviewing patients in ERs. With health care simultaneously critical to individual survival and bafflingly bizarre, no wonder people first want to talk about health care.
But that’s taking your eye off the ball.
Health is a much bigger issue than health care. Health is a social, political, and economic issue that speaks to national survival. A healthy economy requires a healthy population. A healthy population is also a resilient population, that can grow an economy and help create the kind of society people year for.
So what are people’s workaday definitions of health? Here is a sampler of some responses I’ve gotten:
Family doctor - “Your numbers look great.”
Schoolteacher in her early sixties - “The doctor said my numbers look really good.”
Professional ball player - “I can play. Despite the injuries, I can play.”
Health Insurer – “We had to pay virtually nothing on this guy. It was a fantastic saving.”
Orthopedic surgeon - “The new joint looks great on X-ray.”
Oncologist –“We can’t find any evidence of disease on scans.”
Therapist - “We took care of most of his major issues.”
Worried patient in his fifties - “I still might have cancer. They didn’t do many tests the last time I saw the doctor.”
Drug using teenager - “When I take the stuff, I feel great. My health is fine.”
World Health Organization – “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Beyond Absence of Disease
If you’re an oncologist, making a tumor disappear on PET scans is a very, very big deal. The ordeal of surgery and chemotherapy may look small by comparison. Yet absence of disease is an impoverished vision of health.
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