“Be sure to check with your doctor”; oh, you don’t have a doctor? Then die. Quietly – please. (One of our nervier congressmen actually uttered something very similar on the floor of the House of Representatives this spring during the health care debates!)
It seems to me the usual argument against universal health care most often lists waiting lines and other difficulties of obtaining hip replacements and various types of elective surgery as major ‘problems’ in first world nations other than ours. Such narrow thinking never addresses preventative care and the cumulative benefits in those countries that have universal health care. What are some of those benefits? With low infant & mother mortality, low rates of abortion, low teen pregnancy, and low c-section rates the attention of health workers can more effectively concentrate on baby and youth health, elder health, worker health and chronic disease.
Holland, Sweden, Canada, Japan, and England have now had universal health insurance for at least 50 years and they have reaped the benefits; two generations of a population that have experienced preventative care since childhood. We, on the other hand, have large swaths of our population, mostly the poor, who have often suffered disease that could have been prevented or eased by early intervention. Just one example that is striking; a significant number of American children have never seen a dentist and are not likely to as adults; this at the same time medical research shows the strong association of persistent periodontal disease with heart disease. I cannot forget the death of a 12-year old from a dental abscess in 2009, who died for lack of a dentist who would accept Medicaid in Washington, DC. By the time the seriousness of the infection was finally determined it was too late to save the child.
Internationally America has been number 19 or worse in infant mother mortality for over 40 years. Currently we have one of the highest c-section rates and highest number of low-birth-weight babies in the world. Our new mothers breastfeed their babies at a shockingly low rate and for a shockingly short time. Our teen girls get pregnant at a rate considerably higher than European girls. In fact, “Nearly half of all pregnancies in the USA are unintended, federal statistics show, an indication of the need for better contraception education.”* Without routine medical check-ups American women and girls are far less likely to have access to birth control and oversight of other reproductive health issues especially STDs.
Yes there is a growing incidence of obesity in other developed countries but we here in America lead the pack with child obesity, adult obesity and diabetes. Nutrition education in our schools lags far behind what a growing number of people consider necessary to understanding the maintenance of good health.
Women make up half the population, giving birth to all the babies, but my concern is not just with women’s health. When boys do not receive routine medical exams from childhood onward the lack contributes to the tendency for grown men to wait till they are seriously sick before turning to health providers for help. Compounded with lack of dental care, lack of dietary information, little opportunity for a one-on-one doctor-patient relationship, lack of information on STD’s when young, and certainly lack of in-depth learning on the birthing process and their part in it, this lack of routine preventative care leaves our husbands, brothers, and sons at a severe health deficit.
As far as I can see, after a long life of observation, preventative care is more important than knee replacements and must come first.
*USA Weekend, Aug 6-8, 2010, pg 13.