Friday, May 29, 2009

A Wellness Initiative for the Nation (WIN)

As many blogs and news services as I use you'd think it wouldn't take me so long to run across a great report on improving America's health care system from the Samueli Institute. The Wellness Initiative for the Nation (WIN) pulls key elements from several other reports and recommendations to present a coherent plan to save money and improve our health by preventing disease and illness.

Medicine evolved from the practice of curing our ills and it's been a big, profitable enterprise. Today it's so big that it consumes 16.3% of our GDP while the amount of care decreases due to rising costs and the number of uninsured. The basic solution is to a new paradigm of medicine to prevent illness and disease. This is where traditional medicine can learn from the world of complementary and alternative medicine.

The WIN report is interesting reading, especially while health care reform is such a hot topic in our country. You'll find it at WIN.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

British National Health Beats U.S.

Interesting article in today's WALL STREET JOURNAL about the anti-health care reform ad campaign by the Patient's Rights group. Seems Lord Darzi of Denham, a surgeon and top official in Britain’s Department of Health, wants us to know the ads don't present an accurate picture of the British health system.

The British system provides a high standard of care to all Britons despite spending less per capita than is spent in the U.S., $2,500 a year in the U.K. versus about $6,000 in the U.S. He also pointed to a 2007 report from the U.S. research group Commonwealth Fund that ranked U.K. health care as No. 1 out of six large countries, based on patient and physician surveys (the U.S. placed last). And he noted better life expectancy rates — 79.2 years for the U.K. versus 78 years for the U.S., according to recent data from the World Health Organization.

The current TV campaign makes it sound like Britons are dying in the streets due to government bureaucracy. Is it a perfect system? Even the British will admit that it isn't, but it certainly offers some guidance to the health care reform efforts in our country. America simply cannot afford to continue spending 16.3% of our G.D.P. on health care, a figure which is escalating almost hourly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Swiss Vote for CAM

The Swiss became the first ones in Europe to vote complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into their constitution recently. Coverage for CAM was removed from their basic health program in 2004 and moved to private health insurance. With more than 67% of the vote the Swiss moved it into their constitution and probably back into basic health care in that country.

This should be a clear indication for Americans on the importance other countries place on CAM. Perhaps there's a reason President Obama recently said he's open to adding CAM to health care reform efforts?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Running Scared

Interesting to see how the pharmaceutical companies are responding to health care reform efforts in Washington. The first quarter of this year their spending on lobbying jumped +36% from the same period in 2008. They spent $47.4 million in the first three months of the year to influence our elected officials not to ruin their party.

At the same time the Insurance industry decreased lobbying expenses by 2% to just $41.4 million for the first quarter. Either they're keeping their powder dry or they accept that change in health care is inevitable this time around are are willing to work with the process.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Health Care Costing More

There was an interesting study publisher here in Texas recently showing how the cost of health care continues to climb, becoming a bigger and bigger problem for families today. According to Families USA, a consumer health care advocacy group, 26% of the 5.6 million people in Texas under age 65 will spend 10% of their pre-tax family income on health care this year. What's more interesting is that 72% of the group have insurance. The report also says that 1.7 million Texans are in families that will spend more than 25% of their pre-tax family income on health care this year.

The problem with health care costs is not just the uninsured, it's the cost we're all paying today. In Texas health insurance premiums rose from $6,638 in 2000 to $12,403 in 2007, an 86% increase while median earnings rose just 15%.

Add in the time and expense of dealing with the standard insurance industry practice of "denial management" and the toll just keeps on rising for American families. Any wonder there is such a concentrated effort to enact health care reform this year?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stressful Times

Is it a sign of our stressful times? According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine an estimated 9.4% of adults surveyed in 2007 had tried meditation at least once during the previous 12 months, a significant increase from 7.6% in 2002.

Since that increase was before our current economic crisis, how many are meditating today? The good news is they're using natural stress relief which is better for their whole body.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Health Care and Money

As much as I'd like to believe that the health care industry is going to come up with $2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years, history says it isn't going to happen. In a story today Drew Altman, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, offered his perspective which covers nearly forty years.

"Neither managed care, nor wage and price controls, nor regulation, nor voluntary action nor market competition has had a lasting impact on our nation's health care costs," Altman said recently. Even after President Bill Clinton proposed an overhaul of our health care system the growth of health care spending slowed only slightly, only to surge a few years later.

The good news is the health care industry realizes that major changes are going to happen this time around and they're willing to promise almost anything to get a seat at the negotiating table.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recession Stress Adds Pounds

A survey by shows that 40% of us have packed on the pounds as a result of stress recently. The problem? Snacking. Two-thirds report snacking once a day while 24% snacked twice each day. That will pack it on!

Stress is connected to many health problems including heart disease and several digestive disorders. Now, more than ever, it's worth it to take the time for yourself to deal with the stress in your life. Tai Chi, meditation, yoga, massage are just a few ways to help handle stress. Even taking the time to stop and smell the roses as you take a daily walk would help ... it's part of living in the moment or what's called mindfulness.

It also helps to mind what your eating!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Obama Open to CAM

During President Obama's April 29th Town Hall Meeting in Arnold, Missouri he expressed his openness to including complementary and alternative medicine in America's health care system. "We should do what works," President Obama said. "I think it is pretty well documented through scientific studies that acupuncture, for example, can be very effective in relieving certain things like migraines and other ailments - or at least as effective as more intrusive interventions."

The President went on to say that our health care system needs to change its focus to one of prevention to obtain serious savings down the road. Too often elected officials and the private insurance industry focus on reducing costs in the near-term. That's also good news for CAM because so many therapies are directed at prevention and wellness.

Personally I like the javascript:void(0)old system in China many years ago where folks would pay their doctor every month to keep them healthy and stopped paying when they were sick. Sure seems to be a better incentive to keep people healthy than America's system.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Working Ourselves To Death

Lifestyle is the major factor in our health so the report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development sheds light on why America ranks so poorly in so many health categories. For starters, the French sleep a daily average of 530 minutes compared with 518 for Americans and 469 for Koreans. (I've seen studies that say Americans average a lot less than 518 minutes.)

Medical science is just beginning to appreciate the negative effects of stress on our health but our culture isn't paying attention yet. The French enjoy 30 days of mandatory paid leave every year, compared to with 20 in the U.K. and 10 in Japan. America has no mandatory paid annual leave yet, the the impact of the resulting stress build-up can be seen in our health statistics.

Americans may enjoy being the hardest-working people on the planet but the toll it takes on our health is a heavy price to pay. Is it any wonder we spend more on health care than any other nation on earth at 16.3% of our GDP? How long before we stop and smell the roses?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu

Here in Texas the Ft. Worth ISD closed 147 schools putting 80,000 kids out of classes for at least a week. It may not take hindsight for us to realize this is a drastic over-reaction to the situation. Suddenly in Mexico the numbers dropped from 1,400 cases with 180 deaths to a few hundred cases and only 19 deaths. In other words this new strain doesn't appear to be any more dangerous than regular seasonal flu.

But you have to love the story out of Canada about the 200 pigs who caught the Swine Flu ... from a human worker just returned from Mexico. There just seems to be an element of "turn about is fair play" about the story.