Health vs Healthcare

Health is a term we use all the time.  It’s a component of phrases that we read about daily.  Examples are health care, health insurance, health coverage, health club. It works, in that we understand what those things are but it doesn’t work in the sense that we actually understand what health means in these phrases, or in general.

Photo by Roy Blumenthal

Mostly we define health by what it is not.  Health is not being ill.  It is also not being infirm. It is when we try to say what health is that we get into trouble.  One approach is to use averages.  We assume that if the average man who is 5’ 8” weighs 150 pounds, then 150 pounds is a healthy weight.  We do the same thing for blood pressure, temperature and many other measurements that we use to determine the health of an individual.  Some of these are more or less effective – like temperature.  Others not – like weight (and the even worse BMI or Body Weight Index).  There are so many additional factors relating to the best weight for an individual that average is virtually useless, not to mention that when everybody is fat, the average is not going to represent a healthy weight.

Add to this the fact that Doctors are not trained in nutrition, exercise or any of the characteristics of a person identified as healthy.  You don’t go to a Doctor to be healthy.  You go because something is wrong and you want it fixed. But if you want to be healthy, you go somewhere else.  Nowadays, the medical industry is attempting to co-opt the health agenda.  The word is health maintenance and it is built on the same old average model discussed earlier.  Weight, blood pressure and cholesterol measurement are key definitions of health status these days.  They aren’t causes of illness but they do correlate and the medical profession is all over them with medications to ‘make them normal’ if your body won’t accommodate.

I don’t think we have a good handle on health and I don’t know how we should change things to do a better job.  I am suspicious of the medical industry for advising me about health.  The current health maintenance focus leaves me cold; as does the use of drugs with serious side-effects to correct any deviations from average.  I don’t have a solution.  I seek information from independent sources and try to use natural substances to treat issues.  I do trust Doctors to treat illness and get my checkups but I hold back from accepting the drugs they recommend when my scores are bad.

I don’t think we really have health care.  We are still basically identifying illness and treating them with brute force method.  There needs to be a serious rethinking of the medical industry to fix this.  Maybe Doctors don’t need to change.  Maybe it doesn’t make sense for them to be good at treating illness and creating health at the same time.  But if Doctors don’t change we need something else.  What it should be, I haven’t figured out.  Maybe you have some ideas.

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