Update: After writing this post I was asked to submit it to the weekly blog carnival Prevention Not Prescriptions at The Kathleen Show. Speaking of Kathleen, she is the writer & director behind the movie Side Effects, a great flick that we watched a couple years ago. Having had no previous exposure to the prescription drug industry this movie was a real eye opener with a great story to boot. I'm delighted to be included in this blog carnival, do go check it out. Here is the edition where you will find my post and many others.
I probably shouldn't sit down to write this while I'm steaming. I rarely "let it all out" on this blog, doesn't seem professional and you know... I could offend somebody.
I don't read other ranting blog posts very often either. It's almost juvenile and doesn't seem to help matters. Having said that, I'm going ahead with what I want to say (it's my blog and if I can't share my opinions here I don't know where I can).
You know it's a particularly bad rant when there is nary a photo to break of the monotony of words! Feel free to skip this post if you don't like to read people's "straight from the center of their boiling belly" posts.
Tired of the state of affairs
This weekend Damien brought home the open enrollment package from work. (To my Canadian friends and family: open enrollment is the window of time you have to make changes to your current health insurance before the next year.)
He brought it out of his pack this morning while I was making breakfast and reading it tipped me over the edge. The insurance claims made by employees this past year increased, again. Which means our insurance premiums are increasing, again, as they have every single year since we have lived in the United States. Moving back to Canada is looking more appealing all the time, but that is a subject for another post.
Damien's employer is very generous and they do what they can to absorb most of the cost and the rest is passed on to us. But the rest in Maine health care premium dollars is a lot let me tell you. I'm sick and tired of this.
Actually I'm not sick, seems like we're the only ones who aren't, but I am fed up with subsidizing other people's poor lifestyle choices. I'm not just talking about where Damien works but society in general.
I'm tired of a making time-consuming everyday choices (for example, cooking) that are not supported by society at large. And when I turn around I'm paying for the consequences of other people playing by society's rules; emphasis on making money and lots of stress, fast food, little exercise and family time.
I'm tired of spending a large chunk of our paycheck on healthy food for our family while other people eat crap, and lots of it, and then we have to help subsidize their medications. I'm not talking here about families living below the poverty line, whose only neighborhood store sells packaged preservatives, cigarettes and alcohol.
A little hypothetical case study
I'm going to use Damien as an example to show what's wrong with how we approach health in this country.
Damien has eczema (that no longer happens) and what we call a very sensitive digestive system but what is probably clinical Irritable Bowel Syndrome (related to his eczema by the way).
He hasn't been officially diagnosed because what's the point if you are taking your personal health into your hands. But before the sensitive gut, came the eczema diagnosis (early in our marriage) and the only answer was steroidal medication to manage and mask the symptoms.
Damien is a researcher and has always been concerned about his health and wasn't ready to accept that for an answer. I'll cut to the chase of this story; through major diet changes and lifestyle modifications (changing cleaners, etc.) Damien has learned and is still learning what triggers his skin outbreaks. And would you believe, it is largely determined by what he eats. He is in control of the situation, his own actions make him healthy or sick and medication would simply cover up that truth.
But let's say years ago he didn't dig deeper into diet as the answer and simply accepted the doctor's "truth" that this was nothing he could change. It might of played out something like this:
Damien goes on topical steroids to fix his eczema. The symptoms would improve for a time but he'd probably have to go on increasingly more powerful steroids over time. Because he wouldn't have changed his diet his gut health would deteriorate. He would be diagnosed with IBS, more medications and lifestyle restrictions because IBS makes your body do nasty things (this is the bowel we're talking here) that you can't always control.
So at this point he'd be on steroids and maybe 2 or 3 other meds for his digestive issues. A sick gut by the way is responsible for many autoimmune diseases, that even pharmacology can't seem to treat. A poor diet, which led to the eczema to begin with, would contribute to Damien gaining weight, something he is very susceptible to. Weight gain would contribute to high cholesterol and blood pressure (which in turn contributes to heart disease) not to mention increased cancer risk. All of which are treated with... you guessed it, more medication.
All the these medications have side effects and one very real possibility is depression. Depression because you feel so crappy and depression because of the medication cocktail you've been prescribed. Not to mention decreased sexual function and who knows what else, but you can be sure whatever it is there is a medication for that too!
And the icing on this fast food, preservative laden cake is that all of those health problems, medications and side effects would most certainly affect what Damien loves to do most: be active outdoors with his family. Damien is an optimistic, fit (love those muscles), very healthy dad and he does not want to be left on the sidelines as his children grow and pursue activities; he wants to lead them.
If he was sick and medicated he would not have the physical stamina to do that. That fact alone would have led him to depression (but don't worry there's a drug for that). And to think it all started with an itchy skin rash. This reactionary chain of events would be almost comical if it wasn't true for so many people.
Who pays for all those doctors visits, medications and sick days from work? Damien was strong enough because of life circumstance to ask questions but what if you are a person who doesn't, because of finances, family history, or education, have what it takes to stand up to the medical & food industry?
What then, are you simply resigned to a life of medications? And I am resigned to a life of paying for them? Why does our society find this acceptable?
Reforming health care
I am angry and there is not much I feel I can do about this situation except raise my children as best I know and
write how I feel rail against the current health norm.
I'm tired of paying so other people can eat processed, refined foods, saturated fats and simply selfish quantities of animal products (you know that statistic that says we'd need something like 6 earths if everyone ate like North Americans). No one is stepping up to the plate to help pay for my family's expensive weekly produce bill or to compensate me for lost wages since I stay at home in large part to properly feed our family.
Choosing health is hard work and costly but choosing the alternative is even more so. Some day I'll write more in depth about our diet and the reasons why we choose that path to health, though I've just outlined most of the reasons in this post.
It's about nutritional excellence, it's about being active, it's about less stress; it's about our physical, emotional and spiritual well being. It's about reforming our lives not just our health care.
Health care reform is about more more than bills passing through legislature, it's about reforming the way we eat, move and live.
It's about taking responsibility for our health. Let me state right now I support universal health care for everyone, this is in my Canadian DNA. But if there are to be any bills passed by government it should be changes to the farm bill; removing subsidies from those industries (not farmers) growing and packaging disease in their meat packing plants. If government wants to make changes they should start with supporting organic farmers and nutritionists; giving tax credits to families that raise their children to be active and eat vegetables (highly unlikely I realize).
This rant is running out of steam. So I'll end it here. Health care isn't personal anymore. It's about other people having to pay, quite literally, for your choices. Understand of course I'm not talking about the cost to help victims of car crashes, congenital birth defects, broken arms and other such health issues. I'm talking about how we find it acceptable in this society to manage preventable disease instead of preventing it. I don't want other people having to pay for my "personal" choices and I'm simply wishing that other's would feel the same way.