It's a big day for healthcare reform.
Tonight President Obama will address Congress and is expected to go into more detail about what the healthcare overhaul will look like. A new report from
The report, due out tomorrow in Health Affairs, found health care costs will average $8,160 this year for every man, woman and child, an increase of $356 per person from last year. The report estimates that healthcare costs will reach $13,100 per person in 2018, accounting for $1 out of every $5 spent in the economy.
We need to slow--or even better, lower--our healthcare spending, which has proven difficult. The American healthcare system is based on acute episodic care, and relies on costly high-tech tests and procedures--while half our population suffers from chronic conditions which are often preventable and manageable. We need to keep people healthier for longer.
We all know that prevention efforts--diet/exercise/regular screenings and checkups--are important and can help us stay healthier longer; and that chronic disease management needs to be taken more seriously. Medication adherence rates are low in this country, and patients need follow their doctors' orders to treat chronic diseases, which includes taking prescription medicines as directed.
But our approach to healthcare needs to become much more ingrained. For example, our communities must be designed to enable exercise. A suburban neighborhood, with no central district and no sidewalks does not encourage neighbors to walk after dinner, and neither will a city neighborhood with poor lighting. I just started using a pedometer today. It takes 4,600 steps for me to get to work. It is recommended that we each take 10,000 steps per day. If our environments do not encourage us to walk, we'll never make it.
Let's start looking at our health as part of an overall approach to improve the fortunes of our country. For individuals, better health is linked to an improved quality of life--so we all need to start exercising more and eating better.
A healthier employee is more productive, and costs less than a sick one--so employers should look at offering prevention and disease management programs to employees.
A healthier population will cost less. But we need to focus on what is ruining our health and costing us the most money: chronic diseases. And we need to do it now before it is too late.