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
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
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
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.