I sent this to the editors of the Wall Street Journal on Friday, March 25th. I wanted to say more, but here it is…
As an avid reader of the WSJ, I studied several recent articles involving healthcare, chronic diseases and op-eds stating that Americans are living “healthier and better lives.” As a spine patient, non-profit founder and film producer, I have much to say about the contrast of perspectives written on these topics.
The American medical system fares well when compared to other countries in specialized care or acute care. While The March of Health Progress speaks to these core competencies, it presents a distorted picture of Americans’ overall health. Indeed, we as a nation are stricken with myriad chronic conditions evidenced by 170 million Americans palliating daily for one or more conditions. Young people I know take several medications daily; my elderly father takes eleven drugs daily. Extending his life with meds has not improved his quality of life by any measure.
The causes of diabetes are more complex than a “lifestyle decision.” Dismissing certain chronic diseases as behaviorally-based is risky business: it’s only part true, it blames the patient and absolves policy-makers of their responsibility to solve problems threatening the solvency of our healthcare system. Equally important, the public must understand the subtle but critical differences between “chronic disease” and “chronic degenerative disease.” Your well-written series on fatigue illnesses and the swelling ranks of SSDI beneficiaries (Insolvency Looms as States Drain U.S. Disability Fund) speak to the prevalence and rise of chronic diseases disabling Americans of all different ages and races.
So, are we as a nation really that healthy? Here’s the bigger, uglier picture: the rate of chronic degenerative diseases in this country continues to skyrocket and our medical infrastructure does not address the root causes of many of these diseases. Our system provides outstanding palliative care, but we need to get real serious, real fast about uncovering the causes of chronic degenerative diseases. Our lives and economic future literally depend on it.