Opinion: World of health care far from ideal

By Sofia Griffin

High school isnt the place where the worlds or even our own countrys problems are the main topic in the hallways. Sometimes I wonder why my teachers always told me that they were going to prepare me for the outside world, but failed to explain crucial problems in our society. For example, besides my personal struggles with health care, I never had to think about our health care system in high school.

Get Healthy SLV has been educating the freshmen health class of the Alamosa High School about access to health issues. Our activities range from lectures to role-playing games that inform the students about the hardships many people in our country suffer. Our work with the students lasted four days. We hope that the students will make informed decisions about their health and find that their voices do matter in improving health care.

On our last day, the students turned in an interview assignment handed to them on our first day of class. This assignment asked the students to interview adults (18 years or older) about their experiences navigating the health care system as well as the problems they see regarding health insurance.

Through the stories we gathered from the interviews, one of the main issues respondents noted was how expensive health insurance is in the valley. Many of the people wish for affordable health care.

Tanya Erickson, a mother of six with a BA in accounting said, The valley charges a lot more for services than the city. If a person needed a CT it is better to go to Pueblo because youll pay half the price than what you would pay here. This is because they dont have insurance and the ones that do (have insurance) pay more.

In her ideal world, Erickson said, Health care would be cheaper, it would be about the patient and not the number of patients being seen and how much money. Patients should be taken care of and not feel like a number. Give people free screenings so maybe we can catch things earlier (diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure). Get doctors in this valley that stay and become familiar with their patients so going to the doctor isnt scary and you dont have to report your life story. Instead, make it a personable experience and not just the doctor on the computer making no eye contact.

Stephanie Gray, a full-time registered nurse and a mother of four, also agrees that our current health care service is difficult to access. Working with the community, I have witnessed many people struggle to fill prescriptions, Stephanie said.

It is obvious to our community members and even our health care providers that we are struggling.

Augustina Briones, a server at Alamosas well known breakfast restaurant, the Campus Caf, has also struggled with health care.

My daughter needs to get some wisdom teeth removed and I just cannot afford it right now, she said. I pay all bills, but I will get the care she needs when I can afford it.

Is receiving health care a money game? Since when is it okay for the richest people to only have the best health care? It is said on our constitution: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty andthe pursuit of Happiness.

I know I struggled to get health care, but it shouldnt be that way. The way we are struggling today isnt the American dream. The United States has the highest costs in health care and the highest deaths in all industrialized countries.

So this leads me to my last question, is this our ideal world?

In general, the people of the San Luis Valley know that it is wrong that individuals and families struggle to get health insurance. Anyone who has ever struggled to get or pay for health care services knows how frustrating it is to feel that your future is at risk if dont have insurance or a way to pay for care.

In an interview with a foreign exchange student, a question was posed about the difficulties of getting health care while in the United States. Through the interview, she admitted to having the flu. She felt the need to go to the hospital, but refused because it was too expensive. Her idea to decrease costs was to have the government provide more support through public insurance.

The freshmen in high school, parents, college students and even exchange students agreed that access to health insurance needs to be improved so it will work for everyone. With their voices we have proof that all kinds of people care and demand change.

At Get Healthy SLV, we encourage you to raise your voices on this matter. If not for yourself, speak up for the teens; it is their future we are fighting for. SLV residents have the right to have equal access to health, just as someone who has the money to pay for health care.

Sofia Griffin is a service-learning aide for the Get Healthy SLV Project, an education and advocacy project dedicated to increasing access to health for all residents in Colorados San Luis Valley. Get Healthy SLV is a project of the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center and funded through The Colorado Trust. Sofia Griffin can be contacted at info@gethealthslv.org.

Opinions communicated in Solutions represent the view of individual authors, and may not reflect the position of the University of Colorado Denver or the University of Colorado system.