Friday, January 11, 2013

You Can't Afford to Get Sick -- Book Review

“I believe strongly and passionately that every American has a right to good health care that is effective, accessible, and affordable, that serves you from infancy through old age, that allows you to go to practitioners and facilities of your choosing, and that offers a broad range of therapeutic options. Your health-care system should also help you stay in optimum health, not just take care of you when you are sick or injured.”—(Andrew Weil, You Can’t Afford to Get Sick, p. 4).

That says it all. Dr. Andrew Weil, one of our best known physicians, takes on the American medical system in You Can’t Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care, a book published in 2012, as an updated re-issue of Why Our Health Matters: a Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future, a 2009 publication. The book is readable and persuasive.

Weil points out that at one time American medicine was the best in the world but it isn’t any more. He tells what is wrong with it and what to do to make it good again. Remember, this man is a doctor who has been there. His specialty is integrative medicine, a field that he heads at the University of Arizona.

The book is organized in three parts: Where We Are, Where We Need to Be, and How to Get There. He discusses the dysfunctions of the American medical system and puts blame on medicine delivered via the profit motive, especially the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies. As a physician, Weil says he has heard many misdiagnosis and mistreatment disaster stories from patients, colleagues and others. He suggests that the system be repaired like this: “Our long-term goal must be to shift our health-care efforts from disease intervention to health promotion and disease prevention….the time has come for a new paradigm of preventive medicine and a society-wide effort to educate our citizens about health and self care” (p. 9).  His two main objectives are: “(1) Change the focus of health care in this country from disease management to prevention and health promotion. (2) Minimize interventional medicine’s dependence on expensive technology” (p. 10).

That is what Weil’s book is about. He goes into how to prevent disease and promote health, which he says will greatly improve medical services delivery, prolong lives and save millions of dollars. In the last chapter of the book, which is not in the 2009 book, he offers “a Two-Week Plan for Taking Greater Responsibility for Your Health and Well-Being” (p.224). He calls the 2010 Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) a step in the right direction that does not go far enough. He lists good features including providing insurance coverage to more Americans, and denial of fewer preexisting conditions, but is distressed that the new law does not reduce the high cost of medical care. He offers a path for American people to use the available services selectively and wisely.

This is good reading for those of us who are distressed about the dysfunctions of current medical services delivery and hope for improvement. 

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