Sunday, November 21, 2010

Public Health is a Public Issue: On the Healthcare Debate

The nature of modern society in so many different ways has given Americans much more freedom and control. Of course, it has brought new challenges as well.

Imagine walking down the street on your way back from your lunch break. Suddenly you hear your name and see an old acquaintance from college coming your way. You shake hands and ask how he’s been. He explains that he just returned from Asia where he was working on an exciting new project. After a few minutes of catching up you say your farewells and start to walk away. From behind you, you hear him sneeze. These encounters happen all the time. People travel so much more quickly from place to place than has ever been possible before. And along with them comes all the rest of their experience, from bed bugs to flu bugs.

We are required to spend so much up close time with other people on a day to day basis that there is no way to avoid every bug or potential contagion. It isn’t possible for people to just stay home and avoid the world. And it shouldn’t have to be. Contagious diseases are a part of life and probably will be for a long time, if not forever. But as a society we have the means to deal with them and have pulled together many times in the past to do so. In fact, generations past would surely balk at the lost potential of not securing the health of the general populace since we have the means.

Now say you’re coming out of work and a man approaches you asking you to take a survey. You oblige, finish and head off for a few beers with friends before going home. The man giving the survey happens to work contract labor and carries no health insurance. He also has TB. It could be any number of diseases endemic to any society. The problem is that he is still walking around, untreated, because he does not have the means to acquire health insurance. He could go to the Health Department and get treated. But he doesn’t feel bad, does not even know he has TB. And he was very friendly by the way.

We have to go into public. We have to deal with each other. Life has to go on. Modern society dictates certain necessities of interaction that we are powerless to avoid.

If the right pathogen creeps out of the right jungle mutates just the right way and hops on the right flight…Bam…there you go! And it happens all the time. So these are important questions to ask when considering whether or not the government should or should not have any say in health care. A well maintained health care system which allows the general populace to control their own health issues better seems more like an ounce of prevention compared to the tons of cost by not proactively addressing public health. The Republicans never brought this up when in charge. Hopefully now, as they return to power, they will be forced to do something. Or at the least, do nothing to hurt the solutions put in place by the Democratic Congress.

Just a link- http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspxess.

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