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: ESCAPE FIRE Documentary Sparks Conversation About How to Rescue Health Care

ESCAPE FIRE Documentary Sparks Conversation About How to Rescue Health Care

Managing Editor

What if the way to save our health care system was right in front of us, but none of us could see it? That's the premise of ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, the award-winning film by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke that examines forces inherent in our health care system that make it so resistant to change. The documentary, which was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, made its television debut on CNN on March 10.


Treating Sickness Versus Promoting Wellness


We are a nation that treats sickness. And we treat it a lot. We spend more on health care than any other country in the world- more than $9,000 per person per year. We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceuticals-nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. Approximately three-fourths of our health care costs come from treating preventable conditions and diseases. And here's the kicker. We don't have better outcomes for all the money spent. In fact, according to a new report commissioned by the National Institutes of Health, when examining life expectancy measures, the United States ranks at or near the bottom of the list of high-income countries for multiple measures.


Many argue that this discrepancy is driven by the fact that rather than treating sickness, we need to do a much, much better job of promoting health and wellness.


Dr. Andrew Weill, the author of " You Can't Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care," argues that the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted largely in response to the demand for greater access to health care coverage, was actually an answer to the wrong question. According to Weill, the "right" question is this: "How can we improve medical care so that it's worth extending it to more people? In other words, how can we create a health care system that helps people become and stay healthy?"


ESCAPE FIRE does a stellar job of highlighting some things that are working-things that shift the focus away from the profit-driven method of health care to one that focuses on patients:



More Questions than Answers


ESCAPE FIRE asks important questions, many for which we don't yet have the answers. How do we-all of us-move past the "bigger is better" and "more is more" mentality of providing and receiving health care? How do we cut costs without cutting care? How do we increase access without creating frustrating patient bottlenecks in light of worsening primary care physician shortages?


These are tough questions.


But a panel of experts from National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine convened to prepare the NIH report provided some suggestions, including first making the public aware that we have a problem. It's time to sound the alarm-and do so loudly. The report recommends a media and outreach campaign to help educate the general public about the health disadvantage facing the United States. If we don't know there is a problem, then we can't take steps to fix it.


The term escape fire is defined as an improvised, effective solution to a crisis that cannot be solved using traditional approaches. That's where we are with the U.S. health care system. We've tried, and failed, to "fix" what we think are the problems. The answer is not more technology, it's not more blockbuster medications, and it's not advanced treatments. The answer is better health-not just better health care-and that starts with each of us. Get up. Move. Educate. Live longer, and healthier, and happier.

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
We invite and encourage anyone interested in current public health and health communication trends and issues to join MMG's contributing bloggers in adding their voice to the ongoing discussion about how we can advance health, together.


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