These days, we hear a lot about problems with our nation's health. As a country, we've got some challenges. Our health is getting worse, and our expenses are getting higher. Meanwhile, our current health care system is not doing a good job of turning this trend around. Consider this evidence:
- More than 1 of every $6 in the U.S. economy is devoted to health care spending.
- Our national health spending is nearly double that of other industrialized countries.
- Despite our high spending, our risk for early death is 68% higher than in other industrialized countries.
- 95 cents of every health care dollar in 2008 was spent on health problems after they had already occurred.
So, how does this affect you and why should you care? Here are four reasons why our national health crisis affects requires our personal attention:
1. Increased national health spending affects personal finances.
- More than a quarter of health care spending comes from household healthcare spending.
- The majority of bankruptcies in the U.S are related to medical bills.
- As our spending rises, insurers and providers shift costs around. The cost of private insurance premiums and co-pays go up. Public programs like Medicare and Medicaid deal with increased costs by reducing payments to healthcare providers. Providers raise prices to deal with reduced payments. Ironically, the people who pay the most are the people who have little or no insurance coverage.
2. Much of our health spending is preventable.
- Nearly half of all U.S. adults have a chronic health condition.
- More than 5 of every $6 spent on healthcare in 2006 was for chronic conditions.
- People with chronic conditions, on average, have health care costs that are 5 times higher than people with no chronic conditions.
- Most chronic diseases are preventable.
3. Chronic diseases increase your health risks and can reduce your quality of life.
- People with chronic conditions often have multiple prescriptions. In addition to adding to their costs, being on multiple medications puts them at increased risk for health problems caused by drug reactions and drug interactions.
- People with chronic conditions often have more health care providers and their care is complex. Surveys indicate that physicians report more difficulty coordinating care for people with multiple chronic conditions.
- Nearly 1 in 8 people are unable to carry on their usual activities because of a chronic health condition.
4. Chronic disease affects your community and the ones that you love.
- When our healthcare system is overburdened, it takes attention and resources away from other community needs. The solutions are usually to either reduce investments or increase taxes.
- As resources get stretched, people with chronic conditions can fall between the cracks. They may need to rely on their families to care for them, or to help them get appropriate services.
- People who have poor to fair levels of health are 3-4 times more likely than their healthier counterparts to delay seeking health care because of cost.
Clearly, our national health problems are serious and they affect us directly. Fortunately, there are things that all of us can do to help turn the tide. Here are four ways to get started:
- Master your own self-care. Small gradual improvements in lifestyle choices can yield big benefits over time. To get started or to take your self-care to the next level, check out my free wellness guide and self-care resource page.
- Be an informed consumer and citizen. Avoid unnecessary treatments and procedures that may put you at risk. Stay abreast of research and policy discussions that relate to your health and the health of your community.
- Promote wellness in your circles of influence. We are more likely to be well if we are surrounded by healthy people. Helping your friends, family, and co-workers be healthier is a win for everyone!
- Encourage decision-makers to invest in proactive solutions. Too often, Corporate and government policy decisions are reactive or based on short-term goals. If we are going to create a healthier future for our children and their children, we need leaders who will make real and sustainable investments in community well-being.
The challenges that we face are all things that we can address if we work together. Where's an area that you are taking action or feel called to act? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below!