These days it’s hard to imagine anyone in America who hasn’t been touched by cancer themselves or through a close friend or family member. Both my parents have had bouts with it–fortunately mild and caught early–and I’ve seen how it can ravage a body that just days before was strong.
Today, May 17, 2006, is LIVESTRONG Day, a program from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise awareness of what is still a major health problem all around the globe despite years of effort by researchers. Lance said “It’s time for our nation to address our issues. Together, we can help change things for the better. As a team, we can make a difference for survivors.”
The LAF is asking bloggers to participate by making a post, to “write about how cancer has affected you or your loved ones and what could have improved the experience or made it less traumatic. You can also add your view about health policy issues facing cancer survivors.”
I think the biggest problem we have in health care today is that corporate financial interests are allowed to outweigh individual health concerns. That is, almost all aspects of medicine and treatment are controlled by the profit demands of pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance companies (and the many other industries which serve them).
This results in over 15% of Americans having no medical insurance and many others with insufficient coverage for disastrous episodes such as cancer, no research being done on treatment for illnesses which have too few patients, and doctors forced to treat patients like cars on an assembly line.
Another element of the disease our culture faces is the lack of responsibility from the people who work at cigarette and food companies. The problem with cigarettes is obvious but not enough people look at the way food companies behave like drug pushers. Whether its Taco Bell’s “I’m Full” and Fourth meal campaigns or Nabisco Oreo’s cute little kid vs. Grandma quick licking ads, their only thought is to sell you more food that’s no good for you.
I’m not suggesting everybody turn into stern-faced vegetarians. But the problem we have from eating poorly are just starting to surface as the Baby Boomers start to reach retirement age; consider the huge increase in Stage 2 Diabetes as a pretty good predictor of future problems. In 10 to 20 years all the huge people you see on the street (or in the mirror) will be facing heart disease, high blood pressure and worse.
What I think I’m trying to say here is that new drugs and better insurance coverage are necessary but not sufficient. We need to develop wellness care systems as well, programs that help people make the right choices now to prevent terrible problems later. Free speech and free markets are great things but, as with anything, only in moderation.