17 September 2008

The "Healthcare" Meme

While I appreciated the announcement of the Liberal Party's proposal of a catastrophic drug plan, I'm tired of the meme "healthcare," which is code for the medical and acute care industry.

WHY do parties and politicians insist on maintaining the fiction that health is equivalent to care-after-the-fact? Worse, that sickness prevention requires only the targeting of individual behaviour, such as addiction and eating and exercise habits?

There is a consistent message coming from Canada's public health professionals, the World Health Organization and international agencies, and even from our own government's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones (whose report was quietly tucked away by the Harper government). It is this:

Social conditions crucially matter. And they can be deadly.

Investing more and more money on doctors, nurses, hospital beds, trauma care ... is wrong-headed. First, our acute care system needs a management overall, rather than just more money thrown at it. Second - and more importantly - we need fewer SICK PEOPLE, fewer people made vulnerable to illness.

Poverty causes stress. Stress is a proven primary underlying cause of heart disease, diabetes, and other major and chronic illnesses.1

Given these facts, which have been known for decades by researchers of the social determinants of health, it's clear that poverty is the #1 killer and our largest health threat.

People need less stress in their lives. With less stress, we'll be healthier. With fewer stressed people, Canada's acute care system can undergo its own recovery.

Whether members of the medical and drug industries would be happy with fewer sick people is another matter.

1 Google 'poverty causes stress' and you'll be swamped with references. Also simply 'stress causes'; your search result will uncover a huge number of diseases linked to stress.

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