I was driving down the interstate recently when I saw what is wrong with health care in America written on a giant billboard. Beneath a picture of a forty something year old woman reclining on a beach and staring serenely off in to the distance, the sign read “Wouldn’t it be nice to never have to think about your health again.” Hmmm.
I could understand if the sign read “worry” instead of “think.” Worrying is never healthy, even if it is your health you’re worrying about! But is the major health insurance company that paid for this ad campaign really suggesting that people shouldn’t even have to think about their health?
Before we go blaming insurance companies for all our woes, it’s befitting to note that ads tell us a lot about the people being advertized to. After all, a good marketing director is one who’s able to tap into motivations that already exist. So is it true, do we choose to shirk personal responsibility and rely too much on doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies to take care of our health? If I took a poll that asked “Who’s in charge of your health; your doctor, your insurance company, your hospital, or you?” what would be the prevailing answer?
Decades of not thinking about health until after we get sick and then believing it’s the doctor’s job to fix us have taken their toll. This “fix me up doc” kind of health care just doesn’t work anymore. It might have worked better for our grandparents when infectious diseases like small pox, influenza, and tuberculosis were toping the mortality charts. But today, we struggle with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and obesity, which are very difficult to get rid of. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medicine in 2008, if you get diagnosed with a disease today, there is a 75% chance that you will never, ever get rid of that disease. It’s yours for life and may even be the cause of your death. Clearly, the time to think about health is before you get sick and not after.
But here’s the good news: There’s something YOU can do! What’s going to either kill you or keep you healthy is a choice you make about what you put in your pantry. It’s how much you decide to use the bicycle hanging up in the garage. It’s how long it takes you to find that missing ball glove or tennis racquet. The next time you hear the words “health care reform,” think more about going for a run in the morning than about insurance companies.