Updated: Jan 15, 2019
During my 3 decade nursing career, I have noted a great change in people's health. I spent a majority of my career working in the community, actually going to people's homes. Thirty years ago, people needed nurses to help with their acute illnesses. In other words, the goal was very clear, to get people back on their feet after a health set-back. Services were more abundant back then. I entered patient's homes along with a home health aid and a physical therapist. (Which were all covered by insurance). After a few short weeks the patients were anxious to get back to their lives. They were showing the healthcare workers to the door! As a nurse, I felt the satisfaction that I had helped them through their illness and assisted them to meet their goals and return to their lives.
Today, if a nurse meets a patient in their home, things are different. In our society the pace is so fast that many people feel they have no time for their health. It is common that patients have multiple chronic health issues and diagnoses. (The reasons for this are many, and will likely be covered on another date.) There are no quick tricks to get these patients to feel better. They have a list of medications a mile long, each with a long list of side effects. Patients often feel overwhelmed and become detached from their condition, waiting for the healthcare system to make them better. This detachment is devastating to our health and our nation.
The truth is, these chronic illnesses don't have a cure in a pill bottle. These illnesses are best prevented and treated by lifestyle changes. Our love of pills began in 1928 with the invention of antibiotics. What a treasure that they were invented! But remember, antibiotics are needed for an acute illness, not chronic!
When I think of my long term health, that is in my hands. I realize I cannot avoid all illness. I love my doctors and I see them regularly to catch early warning signs for diseases. I know that an average doctor appointment however, takes less than 15 minutes, and that physicians have little time to listen to my concerns. That is where the gap is! Who is teaching prevention and supporting lifestyle change and updates in current research?
This is where health coaching comes in. Check out this podcast about ideas for healthcare reform. Revolution Health Radio: a Three step Plan to fix Conventional Healthcare. You will hear interesting theories backed by current costs of healthcare. These are radical ideas about the effect prevention could play in our healthcare costs. For instance, implementing proactive prevention strategies and support (such as: providing health coaches for 1-on 1 support in home to walk through challenges such as pantry clean out, trips to the grocery store, recipes and meal planning. Personal trainer and gym membership and even 3 months of groceries!) provided early on to people who have lab work that is trending toward diabetes, might cost $10,000. However, with 6 months of program compliance it is virtually certain that diabetes would be prevented and lab work would return to normal. This would mean cost avoidance of $14,000 yearly by preventing just 1 case of diabetes! Preventing just 1 case of diabetes over a lifetime would avoid $650,000!
According to the CDC there are over 100 million Americans living with diabetes. In 2018, 1 in 4 Americans have multiple chronic conditions and that number rises to 3 out of 4 Americans over the age of 65.
It may sound grim, but each of us have power against these chronic illnesses. If you hope to remain healthy, or regain your health, you must be proactive. Prevention and healthy lifestyle are things you must hold in your highest priority. Being passive about your health is no longer an option.
For me, food is medicine. For me, movement is built into my every day routine. For me, I know I have the opportunity to improve my health with every single deep slow breath I take, every clean glass of water, and every good night sleep.
(Cue the descent from my soap box)