By Gena Akers
One of the main purposes of health care reform is to get more people covered. Without some kind of coverage, individuals are more likely to put off going to the doctor or scheduling preventive services like mammograms or colonoscopies.
As far as getting people covered, health care reform is working. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2019 health care reform will have provided coverage for two out of every five people who would have been uninsured had the Affordable Care Act not passed. So as far as making sure you can get the care you need, when you need it, health care reform is doing a great job.
But, one job health care reform can’t do is change you. And why should you or I or any of us change?
The simple answer is because the choices we make have a lot to do with how healthy we are. Besides lifestyle choices, the medical world talks a lot about the importance of preventive care. The idea is that if we can just make sure John Doe and Jan Doe never get diabetes, then we’ll never have to treat them for diabetes or any diabetes-related complications. This makes sense, especially since the Centers for Disease control estimate that more than 7 out of every 10 health care dollars spent are on chronic diseases that could be prevented.
But how well can health care organizations prevent you from smoking or gaining too much weight. The answer: not much. The difficulty rests with the fact that things like your genes, the environment, your diet and how much you exercise all play a significant role in you preventing yourself from gaining too much weight and developing hypertension or from smoking and developing esophageal cancer.
And for your doctor, the prescription is simple. Many times, the best thing your doctor can do is take you for a walk. Unfortunately, he/she doesn’t get paid for that. Does this mean we’re stuck? Not unless you think you’re stuck.
Having access to health involves more than having great health insurance or more specialists than you can shake a stick at. The third and in many ways most important piece is what you do for yourself. Accidents will always happen. You can’t always avoid pneumonia, and cancer always is an unplanned and unwanted surprise. But, before we buy into the promises and plans of our elected officials, we need to buy into ourselves and our ability to take charge of our health. Yes, we need a health care system that supports us. But, we can’t expect that system to do all the work.
The parks across Colorado are full of kids and their parents running around and laughing, of young adults and college students playing Frisbee, of retired couples taking their dogs for a walk. Join the ruckus. Dust off your tennis shoes, analyze the contents of your fridge, and remember: there is no golden ticket to perfect health. There are just choices, luck, and ownership.
Just like with your car or your house, take pride in your ownership of your health. Take even more pride in remembering that besides just the choices you make, your voice and opinion counts in determining how our larger health care system meets you and your family’s needs.
For more information on how to take charge of your health, visit sanluisvalleyhealth.org/get-healthy/.
Gena Akers is the project coordinator for SanLuisValleyHealth.org, an education and advocacy website dedicated to increasing access to health for all residents in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. SanLuisValleyHealth.org is a project of the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center and funded through The Colorado Trust. She can be contacted at email@example.com.