A substantial overhaul of our national disease management system is now highly unlikely. What we will get is possibly an alteration in its financing. Perhaps insurance companies will form cooperatives, perhaps the government will pay for the treatment of more currently uninsured individuals, perhaps some costs will be contained with malpractice reform.
And of course, those changes are desperately needed. Medical bills are, by a large margin, the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. It is a strong testament to the fundamental flaws of our system that two-thirds of those filing bankruptcy due to medical bills had health insurance.
Meaningful health care reform may not happen at the national level for many decades to come. However, there's another way to reform health care in this country. It's not reform that starts at the top level of government and trickles down to individuals. It is reform that starts with each individual. And someday, eventually, it might just trickle all the way up to the top.
It is widely acknowledged that our current medical system focuses primarily on disease management. In fact, calling it a "health care system" represents little more than habit, since it has very little to do with either health or care. The vast majority of therapies utilized by our medical system fall into two categories: block symptoms with medications, and/or perform some surgical procedure to cut out or rearrange a part of the body that isn't working correctly.
In order to care for and enhance health, blocking symptoms or cutting out parts isn't enough. In fact, these treatments can very commonly hide one set of symptoms while causing many additional problems. And those additional problems often lead to even more medications or more procedures. Health, in this system, doesn't spiral up. It spirals down.
Until profound change in our approach to health changes at the national level, individuals can begin to reform health care on their own. A few guiding principles, followed through by large numbers of people, would force the change we want to see.
First, work with a primary care physician who has extensive knowledge about preventive medicine. Preventing disease before it happens has an enormous financial benefit. It is also the foundation of meaningful health care. If your physician cannot or will not speak with you at length about nutrition and about the latest research on nutrients and lifestyle changes to prevent and treat disease, find another.
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Second, if your current health insurance does not fully cover all licensed care health practitioners - including alternative providers - then it is not health insurance. It is simply a plan for pre-paying your medical bills. Write a letter to your insurance carrier expressing your desire to prevent rather than treat disease, and explain that you are shopping around for a plan which supports that goal.
Third, if you already have symptoms or a disease, ask your physician why you have it. Obviously bodies do not randomly decide to start producing symptoms. There is an underlying cause for the imbalance(s) that lead to symptoms. If your physician brushes off the question, or worse, becomes annoyed by it, find another. Understanding the underlying causes of symptoms should be the primary focus of any physician working toward your optimal health.
Finally, realize that caring for health is not something that can be accomplished by any national medical system. Physicians can and should provide the education and the roadmap for moving toward optimal health. It's up to each individual, though, to actually travel that road.
Those four changes would initiate a true revolution in health care, reforming it from the bottom up.
Dr. Nigh completed his undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame, then began his study of alternative medicine while doing research for his Master's thesis at Arizona State University. Through studying some of the political aspects of HIV (more...
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