Sunday, December 30, 2007

Health Care: An Oxymoron?

Here's the thing about cancer ... Our energies are placed on either detection (expensive, profit-generating, and sometimes invasive screenings) or treatment (expensive and toxic drugs, radiation, and removal surgeries). Blasting good tissue along with cancerous tissue seems crude. Even cruder is excising whole swaths of good, usable organ. I would rather see energies placed in prevention (inexpensive, although hard to gage its effectiveness) and tumor-containing/shrinking therapies. Both of those respect the human body and its ability to heal itself. Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery do not, or at least do less so.

The projectile path of cancer treatment (I might add heart disease treatment) in this country - this wealthy, bottom-line-oriented country - reminds me of the projectile path of food production. Both are pursued for their ability to generate income, not it seems for their ability to nurture and heal.

I realize it's idealistic of me to think that medicine and food might be produced with an eye towards health. Profit is an effective motivator, probably the best motivator in this country, in this money-centered culture. The best profit is generated when the gap between the cost to produce something, and the price this something can exact from a market, is wide. So profit, in essence, seeks to barely fulfill a need (whether that need is cancer eradication or nutrition provision) while remaining attractive enough to score big bucks.

In my mind, following cancer around someone's body with a scalpel makes as much sense as trying to feed someone with a [brightly colored and oh-so-cool] can of fizzy sweet water. They may provide an immediate fix, but they aren't going to take you where you eventually want to go. In the long run, they hamper you. Does anyone else see the silliness of this?
The numbers in the graphic above were the result of a survey conducted by Kaiser Permanente in 1995. I wonder what today's' results would look like.

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