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The Politics of Dancing

'They' say there are two things you should never speak about in polite or professional company: religion and politics. This IS about politics, but only the beginning.

I'm not a political person. And yet...I truly believe that we Americans are witnessing a historical moment in time this year. So, I'm preparing myself. I want to learn as much as possible about our potential presidential candidates. I want to make the right choice when I cast my vote in November. (And unlike some theorists who claim the election's already been decided, I believe my vote counts.)

Voting used to be so much more black and white for me. I used to look at 1-2 issues and vote for the candidate who swung my way with those one or two issues. I know now that that was a very simplistic way of looking at things. "When I was a child, I used to think like a child..."

When on one candidate's site a couple of days ago, I came across their stance on healthcare. There was a place where I could make give my input about specific issues. So, I sat down, thought about it, and wrote. Here's what I had to say:

As a healthcare professional, I've seen the gamut. Lately let's just say I'm quickly reaching my tolerance threshold. I'm tired of the US, in essence, paying for the pharmaceutical's R&D for the rest of the world. Not only that, but I fervently believe that this industry keeps its patients on medications for either longer than necessary or unnecessarily prescribe the medications in the first place. We are a society
way over-medicated. Think I'm wrong? Why then are so many people developing antibiotic-resistant infections? That's only one example of 'better living through pharmacology' gone bad.

Allopathic doctors, in general, prefer medications rather than a less drastic remedy. Instead of telling a parent to eliminate the sugars and caffeine they feed their child, perhaps mix in some behavior therapy, they're instead placed on meds for their 'ADD'-- a legitimate condition but it's become a catchall diagnosis for many children. Or instead of dealing with our problems head-on, let's place adults on anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications, meds that often exacerbate the problems rather than help.

Why the quick-draw to grab meds? Is it because doctors only have time to concentrate on one symptom, or aren't being educated to treat the patient as whole? Or is it because they believe their patients won't make the necessary lifestyle changes to alleviate the need for these chronic meds? More than likely, it's all of the above.

I'm tired of premiums going up but coverage going down. I'm aware of how premiums are computed: considering the increasing cost of care and also the issue of high-cost diabetes and heart disease--conditions that have modifiable risk factors which are ignored by a large contingent of patients. Some insurance woes would be alleviated if these citizens would take charge of their health. But until then, they're foisting their money-sucking conditions onto the rest of us. I know that. But while it's an industry that consumes more money than any other, it also
makes more money than any other. Surely, someone intelligent within the upper echelons could find a solution to this mess?

What about those who either underinsured or not insured at all, you ask. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely understand the crisis of many Americans who have difficulties accessing insurance. This is a big issue; as are the difficulties of the medical staff who have only a short amount of time for each appointment in which to address chronic issues.

However you look at it, some of the fault lies within the medical community who's failed to properly educate its patients. I come across those patients every single day. These conditions are created by some insurance companies who will often reimburse physicians not based on what is done for the patient, but for how many patients are seen. If someone comes in with a newly diagnosed condition, many times their education is relegated to handing over a pamphlet or perhaps sending a medical assistant in to discuss a disease they're just not educated enough to discuss intelligently. Is it their fault? Or just another crack in the system?

I also come across patients who have no desire to change their current condition, oftentimes a condition that can be changed. Which brings me to my next concern.

I'm weary of speaking day in and day out to patients who refuse to take responsibility for largely modifiable healthcare issues. Granted, it's difficult to alter habits, I accept that. But these are the citizens who continue to smoke, refuse to exercise or take care of themselves, feast on high-fat, high-carb fast foods, are obese, have hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and diabetic secondary issues. And opt to do nothing about it.

Weight gain can sneak up on you. I recognize that. I also recognize that some are overweight due to thyroid conditions. But let's be realistic. Thyroid conditions are the most rare of the causes of obesity. Primary causes include lack of exercise ('walking a lot at work' doesn't count!), lack of sleep and what we put into our mouths. Fast foods, high fat, high processed carbs and a diet high in sodas-diet or regular- are our culprits. It's why we are one of the most obese nations in the world and a paltry 11th in the world in longevity.

As we age, and our metabolism slows, it's easy to turn a blind eye to weight gain and wake up one day, wondering where it came from. And it’s easy, especially in our society today where we seem to work more to have less—less time for our families, less money to pay our bills. After working ten, twelve hour days, who wants to cook? It’s convenient to stop for carry-out on the way home from work. But we Americans are an unhealthy society, chomping down on convenience and fast foods every day in our harried lives, not realizing the mass amounts of calories we consume until it's 30, 40, 100 lbs too late. Studies from the NIH show that we're not consumers of food in the US, we're bingers. Did you know that a 64-oz Super Big Gulp at 7-11 has 800 calories! It'll take 4 non-stop hours of walking to work that off. American portions are several times the size of those in other countries. The largest order of fries in the UK has 160 less calories than the US 'biggie'. A typical 6 ounce muffin in the US is 2-3 times larger than those in French cafes.

Think of this: with our access to devices such as motorized scooters and cell phones that prevent us from walking, even next door or down the street, to discuss things with families, friends, and neighbors, we, and our children, prefer to text message, email, web surf, play video games and watch TV, rather than be active outside. Combine THAT with many school cafeterias' serving sugar sodas and brand name fast foods, is it any wonder that childhood obesity and diabetes has risen to epidemic proportions? Is it any wonder that chronic conditions are mainstays of American adults?

Part of this solution rests on the shoulders of the healthcare industry and medical professionals. But it also rests on our shoulders, and in the case of children, their parents'. But many don't want to alter their lifestyle. They'd prefer a pill, should it come to that, to becoming healthy. This in turn drains the system as a whole. And we
all suffer.

There are disease management programs out there that are offered via healthcare insurance providers. Some employers are allowing this service for their insureds. Some employers are taking it one step further--higher premiums for those who smoke, higher premiums for those who don't actively participate in disease management programs. Some belligerently prefer the higher premiums. But, it's a start, for the few who grudgingly participate. An effort that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the ocean that is our healthcare issue.

I know what many of the problems are. I’m not quite sure how to fix them. There are, of course, many who only need education and a chance to change their lives. For others, all the education in the world won’t change their outlooks. But one thing’s for sure: something’s got to give. Otherwise the industry as we know it will shatter. Here’s hoping for a solution.
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