Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Healthy Optimism

I read on Monday that President Obama has "allocated 155 million to 126 community health centers" as part of the economic stimulus package.

This is a meager percentage of the nearly 800 billion dollars that the President is promoting overall. So I am not sure if my concern is warranted. My fear is that these new health centers will simply offer more of the same regarding primary health care and dis-ease prevention.

The new centers are planned to provide services to those most in need, those individuals with low incomes and little to no health insurance. These services will include state-of-the-art testing - laboratory and diagnostic imaging. The treatments will allow access to prescription medicines that these patients typically would not be able to afford. Is this a good thing?

I am not fully sure. I want to be optimistic about our economy and the overall health or pursuit of health of the American citizens. But I am afraid that the state-of-the-art testing and high cost prescriptions will be vastly missing the target on what is really going on with these individuals that are most in need.

In our Western society, the diseases of the poor are typically lifestyle ailments: diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease. My experience and medical training has demonstrated over and over again that these conditions are most effectively (both for overall improvement of health and for cost/expense ratio) treated by lifestyle interventions. It is about education, providing the tools needed to empower the individual to be responsible for their own health goals. I am worried that the labs and testing won't reach the same diagnosis; and that the treatments that would have the greatest overall benefit won't fit in a little pill.