Christopher J. Manthey, M.D., is a medical doctor and author who writes on the health, politics, and culture of the Commonwealth, United States.
I don’t want to remind you. This is similar to the time when we thought we were out of the woods on gun violence. This is an old and tired trope, a tired story, and unfortunately it’s true. American Life expectancy, as the chart in this article shows, continues to drop. Americans are dying young, in alarming numbers.
Cancer is killing more Americans each year than in any decade since the ’70s. The American Lung Association reports we are number one in the nation for lung cancer deaths, and number two for strokes.
Americans are dying in startling numbers from complications like epilepsy. The Mayo Clinic reports about two-thirds of children and adults under 15 with epilepsy are not on their medicine, or any medication. That’s it.
The American Cancer Society says the American Cancer Society says these totals will continue to grow. It’s an alarming trend, especially when you realize the US, like much of the world, is not doing nearly enough to address it.
This is not something we can brush aside and ignore. We cannot spend our way out of our health issues. We have to choose a path. We have to figure out how to get the most out of the health care system while also spending less.
To me, those who want to talk about fairness should make it a priority for every American. To make sure everyone has access to effective treatment, we should focus on establishing universal health care. If that’s not possible, we need to get quality health care to those who need it the most. Instead of talking about the need for people to work harder and play by the rules, we should talk about the need to share the wealth.
The last 50 years have seen a sea change in the quality of health care we receive. America has seen the implementation of innovative treatment that could not have been imagined even a decade ago. We have seen the adoption of preventative programs that can help the next generation thrive. Those programs are on the cutting edge of improving health care and will make our lives much better.
We have also seen the leading edge of new treatment that targets and targets well. At the same time, we have seen very expensive, often controversial, treatments, like IV therapies, fail to treat the causes of life-threatening illnesses. This trend has to change. What we should see in the future is the most common cancers tackled first. Even the most preventable ones.
This is where we will begin to see an improvement in cancer care.
I’m actually a bit skeptical about the speed and degree of improvement I expect in the quality of health care. I’m not sure it will happen in the near future. But I do believe, based on the research I’ve seen, that it’s possible. Maybe we need to increase the upfront costs of treatment, but that money should be used to reduce the lifetime costs of treatment for Americans.
We must change our approach to health care spending and begin the discussion of health care as a universal service that starts from childhood on. We must ask the question: Why does the person in Minnesota have better access to care than the person in Kansas? Why does the one person in Massachusetts with Type 2 diabetes have better access to care than the one in Washington, D.C.? It’s not because Massachusetts is more attractive to people. It’s because Massachusetts has educated the doctors who can help treat our worst conditions.
With enough education and opportunity, doctors can adapt to new technology, as well as to new illnesses. But in this case, technology and new medicine can only make a difference if we can put the right people in the right place and afford the care that’s given to them.
During the last 50 years, America has seen an explosion in the technology and sophistication of health care. If we can re-envision health care as a service that treats every illness and ensures that as many of the least able-to-handle situations get access to it, we will dramatically improve lives around the world.