Many Americans (always a worrisome way to begin a sentence) seem to believe that health reform means doing whatever they want to do (tobacco use, poor nutrition, no bike helmet, etc, etc), whenever they want to do it, and having access to the best possible care whenever they need it, no matter what. That sounds great, but A) it’s decidedly not the path to good health and B) it will bankrupt our country.
Listen up: ill and bankrupt does not a healthy country make.
Once again I am in motion, writing this week's blog in the cafe car of an Amtrak regional rail train headed home to Philadelphia. I just attended a remarkable 2-day conference in Washington, D.C. held by the National Physicians Alliance(NPA), an organization devoted in large part to the ethical, objective and unbiased practice of medicine and sensible health reform. Quality health care for all -- that distant star in the political universe of health and wellness.
During the NPA meeting, my colleague Jeff Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America's Health, presented his perspectives on the “part” of the Affordable Care Act focused on prevention. He noted that the portion of the ACA focused on actual individual health care (read: the role of the doctors) is comparably small.
To some extent, I agree, but that doesn't mean doctors are only responsible for seeing the people, the patients who become ill after all attempts at public health interventions fail. Doctors can and should certainly do more to address population health through their practices including behavioral interventions, (real prevention not limited to "screening" tests!), civic engagement and helping us craft the best possible policies that support good health.
Funny, it’s the public health system comprised of a wide range of professionals who primarily work to create and ensure conditions in which we can all achieve good health. Without this largely invisible system working hard to provide clean water, breathable air, vaccines and BIG solutions to the BIG public health challenges we face we would all…… well… perish (dramatic, isn’t it? But it’s true).
However, ask a person about health reform and chances are that it’s their doctor and their personal care needs who come to mind. A doctors’ voice can be powerful and the NPA knows this and is a welcome voice of ethical practice and rational reform. After all, public health and medicine have much to contribute toward prevention and wellness in our global community.
Collaboration and alliances; facing the BIG issues together and solving them — yep, you guessed it, this is public health.