Focused on “sick care” and burdened by rising costs, healthcare systems in countries across the development spectrum are ill-prepared to address the global crisis of noncommunicable disease and mental illness. The burden of disease is immense, affecting families (out of pocket costs, lost work and income, suffering), businesses (rising health premiums for employees, lost productivity, absenteeism, etc.), and governments (rising costs for national healthcare systems, etc.).
Failing health systems. Health systems around the world are failing to meet the challenges of caring for the growing number of aging, chronically ill, and mentally ill patents. The specific problems vary from country to country, but mainly involve widespread issues with cost, availability, and quality of healthcare, as well as systemic issues with inequality and health equity. The current healthcare industry model, based on the paradigm of conventional Western medicine, is increasingly seen to be broken – a model that costs too much and delivers too little.
Most medical systems are designed to focus on acute care over chronic care and prevention. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) estimates that only about 4-5% of annual global health expenditures are on prevention, risk reduction, and public health. Meanwhile, recent research on the determinants of health indicates that up to 80-90% of our health outcomes may be due to external and environmental factors. These include economic and housing inequality, neighborhood and city planning, transportation infrastructure, education systems, social and cultural environments, physical environments, and many other factors that extend far beyond the realm of the healthcare system.These “upstream” factors have only recently started to be recognized and understood by public health experts and would require attention at all levels of government in order to address the growing global health epidemic and escalating medical costs.
Adopting a patient-centered and whole-person-centered approach focused on long-term functional status will also help address the current fragmentation of care and help standardize prevention strategies and lighten the burden supported by healthcare systems. Most doctors specialize in a single disease, age group, body part. But preventive medicine doctors take a holistic approach. This means that they focus on the whole patient and the many factors that play a role in their health. This includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it also goes further and also looks at the role of family and community.
The World Health Organization defines Health as “ the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being…and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Knowing what Health is to each of us is the first step in achieving it.
So where do we start? We start right we are, wherever we may find ourselves….In our homes, in our offices, in our schools, in our communities, and in our country. We start by seeking out information and learning what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. We start by learning about food and its importance and impact on our individual health. We start by learning about movement and what is healthy, safe and supportive for each one of us as individuals.
And why not learning by offering ourselves a wellness holiday?