Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Energy Crisis and Modern Medicine

I've been enjoying Sharon Astyk's discussions on the potential effects of the global energy crisis on modern medicine and health care. She has recently published two excerpts from her new book, Depletion and Abundance, on her blog.

Public Health and Welfare Part I
Public Health And Welfare Part II

What are your thoughts?


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  2. I took it more as a call for everyone to join together and move forward together as opposed to becoming so self reliant that you border on isolationism. It's known that our health care system won't pay for preventative measures (the hpv vaccine...that's another issue), and that the way the system is set it not only limits consumers, but also limits practitioners who face difficult decisions of doing what's best for patient or what they will get payed for. Several (not most by any means) have chosen to try and fix the system by leaving it and accepting cash as a way of leveling the playing field. This way patients get what they need, and the provider is compensated for treatment they feel is needed.

    Doctors and health care is needed, but there are many things that we could do before we all end up with cardiovascular disease, type II DM, dead pancreases, and broken livers, and I don't think "health care" (as we know it) is necessarily the answer...I'm not sure what is.

  3. Rixa, I find the idea that cheaper health care does not necessitate less health a very intriguing one!

    Having grown up in a relatively poor country (though wealthier than Cuba, but just as socialist at the time) with an extensive social safety net and universal health care, I must admit at times I feel nostalgic for aspects of that system.

    Like having a general practitioner's clinic next door to the apartment building where I grew up. (The doctor's office didn't have those isolation chamber type exam rooms where you sit alone and sad; you were called into the doctor's office from the waiting room and the doctor was actually with you the whole time!!! Imagine that!) When we were newborns, a visiting nurse came for well baby checkups to our home to help my mom. Mothers were eligible for up to three years paid (yes, years, yes, paid) maternity benefits, so naturally we were breastfed like the great majority of babies. As young children, if we felt really icky sick, the urgent care doctor was a phone call away; they came to us instead of us being taken to them. He brought his leather bag and stethoscope... just like the toy doctor's bags... he would leave medications so my mom wouldn't have to worry about going to the pharmacy, which was only a block away otherwise. Pharmacies sold strictly medications only though, not candy, soda, cosmetics, etc. When we were school age, the school nurses performed the regular well-child physical exams and gave us immunizations, instead of parents bringing the paper from an outside pediatrician. Physical education was really for everyone, not just for the kids who were good at it (though the P.E. teachers seemed to have learned their methods in bootcamp, which I hated). We also had more recess, more outside time and more after school programs than American public school kids do, as well as cheap or free summer camps. You could see large childrens' camp facilities within every summer resort community. Sadly, many of these have closed down since my childhood, because they are no longer taxpayer funded :( School lunches may have been often cooked to a mush, but rarely ever fried... much like the starchy comfort foods of East European home cooking, but no processed crap.

    It doesn't take a genius to see how these practices promote well being for the masses.

    A privately financed health care system will never be this effective in delivering preventive and low-level services though, because it is in no way motivated to do so. But the lessons, both fiscal and ethical, are obvious. We could start with developing a less top-heavy health care system based on a network of freely accessible neighborhood clinics staffed mostly with lower level providers such as physician assistants, nurse-practitioners, CNMs, etc.

  4. I appreciate Judit's comments. Wouldn't that be something to have a Dr. or nurse come to your home to check on your newborn, vs. taking the baby in where there are ill people. And imagine being payed to stay home. Didn't Ina May Gaskin recently write an article touting the benefits of in home post-partum visits by nurses?

    I have difficulty with politics, I have little faith in politicians and it is hard for me to be enthusiastic about those running for president.

    In listening to the campaigns debates the past few months I have heard some candidates speaking of needing to make big changes in our system, and to stive toward preventative medicine. It seems like it was Richardson, Huckabee, or Obama who spoke in these terms the most, but I am having trouble recalling.

    Of the three current politicians running, whom do you feel would be the most likely to make positive changes?

    BTW, Dark horse, though we are not completely isolated here, we are loving being more isolated than we were in the city! It feels so good to know that we are learning to fend for ourselves.

    One thing that I learned from Sharon's site that I didn't realize before, is how growing/raising your own food helps cut back on energy expenditures.


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