16. Community Education

Two recent news events have made apparent the need for better community education. An important value of our own system is community involvement and these events have inspired the creation of a department dedicated to the betterment of the community.

Item 1. We’ve known for a few years that obesity has clearly become a problem. Last week PLoS published an article that found in some rural U.S. counties life expectancy actually decreased. Among the reasons: obesity.

This statement should stop you in your tracks: “Young Americans risk being the first generation whose health status will be worse off than the last.”

If this picture wasn’t the reality, it might be funny.

It’s time for Personal Preventive Medicine. We, as individuals in this country, need to take responsibility for our health decisions. We need to eat better. We need to exercise more. We need regular preventive visits to physicians. It literally means the difference between living and dying.

But we need the tools to do so. And for various reasons many of us haven’t acquired those tools. our own system community education will teach community members the tools of living a healthy life.

Item 2. The way we have conducted “health insurance” as subsidization of health care purchases in this country has reached the point that no one knows what health care costs anymore. And if a person doesn’t know how much health care costs it makes it extremely difficult to purchase health insurance sufficient enough to cover potential costs.

The problem was illustrated in a Wall Street Journal article this week when an oncology patient reported for an appointment and was asked to make a substantial upfront payment before receiving treatment. The problem? Underinsurance.

M.D. Anderson says it provides assistance or free care to poor patients who can’t afford treatment. It says it acted appropriately in Mrs. Kelly’s case because she wasn’t indigent, but underinsured. The hospital says it wouldn’t accept her insurance because the payout, a maximum of $37,000 a year, would be less than 30% of the estimated costs of her care.

This “limited-benefit” health insurance plan, a product of UnitedHealth, is meant to cover a gap in more traditional coverage according to the company.

A quote from the patient, “I just thought I needed some kind of insurance policy because you never know what’s going to happen.”

And how about this:

Fifty-five percent of members from 107 commercial health plans nationally said they do not understand “critical details” of their coverage, including prescription drug benefits, finding the proper physician and appealing coverage denials, according to the 2008 National Health Insurance Plan study.

There are disconnects somewhere.

Update: This seems to be a hot topic.

Principle #16: We often hear that people need more education on a variety of topics. Some of those topics are becoming necessary know-how when it comes to health. our own system is taking the idea of more education and translating it into action: serving the community is what a hospital is all about.

One thought on “16. Community Education

  1. Preventive care seems to be a rising trend, and that’s positive news. I don’t know that this will rise quickly enough to dramatically combat the health crisis we are facing in this country. Hopefully more health organizations, providers, and communities in general will get behind the prevention message and it will spread.

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