Aging Options

Learning about health care from 3rd World countries

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One of the mantras of photography is to look at things from a different perspective. 

You should bend down or look up, change the angle or change the light.  It’s not that I didn’t do those things but rather I didn’t do those things religiously.  And then I gave my nephew, Michael, a camera when he was 18 months old.  This might seem obvious but when you are less than 2 years old you see things from a much different perspective than adults do.  Michael took pictures of his favorite people and they were shots of legs, butts, shoes and one memorable picture of a friend who looks as if he might be a giant because of course to a 2 year old, Louis at just a little over 5 feet WAS a giant.  It always put me in mind of a Canadian show I watched while I was a child called the Friendly Giant.  The opening sequence included a view of a boot and an invitation to, “Look up, waaaaay up!”  Whenever I am in a slump with my photography, I remember what Michael taught me about looking at things differently.

There are few people in America that don’t recognize that our health care is in a crisis.  It’s not that we can’t save people’s lives.  We can.  We are remarkably adept at saving lives in this country.  What we aren’t particularly adept at is preventing disease or even curing disease for a price tag the average person can afford.  Yet for all of our expensive medicine, (the U.S. vastly outspends the whole rest of the world: about $8,233 per capita as compared to a median of $3,268 among other industrialized nations), we don’t have stellar outcomes.  In fact, we don’t even have good outcomes except when it comes to cancer survival.  Mortality rates in the United States are average.  We have the highest rate of preventable death from diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and bacterial infections for people younger than 75 years old and our infant mortality rate falls behind places like Cuba, Hungary and Slovenia.  It would be silly, I think, to automatically rule something out simply because the people doing it are from third world or developing world economies when we are a first world economy.

So it interested me that an article in The Atlantic suggested that the U.S. ought to try looking at what Rwanda is doing to decrease poverty and disease.  The government of Rwanda, for instance, sees health equity as an ethical matter.  They also believe that if they don’t control diseases for everyone, that the country cannot escape poverty.   An article in the New York Times echoes that article but from a doctor’s perspective.  Another in a health blog continues the refrain.

When America became a country, we were considered a backwater nation.  Our poetry and art were considered primitive and unsophisticated.  Our people were rough.  The things that made us great such as much of our industrialization were frankly stolen from other countries.  What we had going for us is that we used to be good at incorporating other people’s and places’ ideas and making them our own.  Somewhere along the line we have taken an elitist approach to nearly everything and believe that if we don’t create the idea it has no place in our country’s future.  How sad for us if we ignore the successes of other countries because of our pride rather than building on their successes to create our own.

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