Poor health habits threaten our capacity for medical care

LETTER — Posted Dec. 12, 2011

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In the past several years, the terms "health care" and "medical care" have been used interchangeably. The government tells us that we cannot afford the health care system that we have, when they really mean that we can't afford the medical care system that we have. It won't matter what kind of medical care system we have with the rapidly expanding numbers of people in ill health.

The health of the country is only as good as the health of its individual citizens. If citizens do not take care of themselves, the country certainly cannot do it for them. Everyone currently practicing medicine knows what this is about. The problems of ill health arising from smoking, obesity, alcohol and substance abuse, sedentary lifestyle, etc., are well known to the medical community. We are trying to meet the need, but this will be numerically -- and economically -- impossible with all the people in poor health because of their lifestyles.

Physicians are not trained in health care, but rather in medical care. Proposals for doctors to be involved in health care will be inadequate due to the sheer numbers of people in poor health. Community projects, involvement of the schools, churches, philanthropic organizations and improvement of the environment would be far more helpful.

Our focus really needs to be on improving the health of our citizens, not devising another system of delivery of medical care.

The question for our leaders needs to be: "Health care or medical care?"

"To be or not to be" healthy -- that is the question.

Joel L. McGill, MD, Brownstown, Ind.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/12/12/edlt1212.htm.

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