By Dr. Brownstein
We spend nearly 20% of our GNP on health care—far more than any other developed country. In fact, we outspend the nearest competitor by nearly two to one. You would think that spending more money on health care would allow us to enjoy better health. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
A recent report by Save the Children, an international, non-governmental organization that promotes children’s rights, released a State of the World’s Mothers 2015 Report that ranks the best and worst places to be a mother. (1) This report is timely as Mother’s day is coming this Sunday.
The U.S. ranked 33 out of 170 countries, down two spots from last year. More notably, we ranked dead last amongst all the developed Western countries. The same organization ranked children’s well-being and reported that U.S. children ranked 42nd—again, dead last among all developed, Western countries.
It is a sad state of affairs that there is not an outcry from any of the Powers-That-Be or the U.S. Government on these statistics. We pay a lot of our hard-earned money on our medical care, yet we have little to show for it.
Why do we finish last or near last on every health indicator? One of the main reasons we score so low on all the major health care indices is that we take too many ineffective and toxic prescription drugs. By far, Americans take more prescription medications than any people on the planet.
I was taught in medical school how to diagnose pathology and prescribe the drug to treat that pathology. Nowhere in my medical training was I taught about health. Medical school was and is presently taught as a diseased-based model. It should be taught as a health-based model.
What can we do? First, we need to demand more from our legislators. If we made it clear to them that we are unhappy with our health care system, they would start to investigate the matter and take action to change how we are using our health care dollars. If we demand nothing, they will continue to do nothing about the health care mess we are in.
Individually, we can all make better choices on what food we eat and whether we exercise on a daily basis. Furthermore, a patient should make a decision whether or not to take a prescription drug that has been prescribed. Only a knowledgeable patient can make that decision. It is up to each and every one of us to become educated about how drugs work in the body. Remember, you are in ultimately in charge of your own health care decisions.
I think the health care problems we face today can be distilled to one major issue: we take too many prescription drugs that fail to treat the underlying cause of an illness. Cholesterol-lowering medications are a perfect example of a class of medications that do not effectively treat the underlying cause of an illness, yet they are prescribed for nearly 30% of our adult population. Furthermore, cholesterol-lowering medications cost too much money and are associated with many adverse effects. I have written extensively about the failure of these drugs in my newest book, The Statin Disaster.
Once we all start making better health care choices, things will change because the money trail will change. Until the money trail changes, it will be business as usual for health care in the U.S.
I say, if we are going to spend 20% of our GNP on health care, we should be getting something positive out of it.