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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Hutchison

Advances in Healthcare

The CDC says life expectancy in 2023 increased slightly for the second year in a row and has nearly recovered to pre-Covid levels to rough 76.6 years. Yet, the USA still lacks way behind most developed countries not even making the top 20 worldwide, and more than six years behind many European and Asian countries. Heart disease still remains the number one cause of death, cancer second, then strokes, accidents, and obesity/diabetes-related deaths rounding out the top 5. As has been widely publicized, the vast majority, 94% according to the CDC, of those who died from COVID complications in 2020 and 2020 causing the dramatic 2-year dip in life expectancy, also suffered from heart disease, diabetes, and or obesity. Incidentally, COVID-related deaths last year were almost identical to influenza and did not make the top 10.

The United States ranks sixth out of all developed countries in overall healthcare, and “first in science and technology by a wide margin”, according to a Peterson Foundation study published in 2022. Despite our leading the world in science and technology, one can not ignore the fact that Americans also lead the developed world with a 36% obesity rate, and 48% of adult Americans having some form of heart disease and 25% of those over 65 havE diabetes.

Advances in medicine, be they new vaccines, cutting-edge technologies, more and safer pharmaceuticals, better and brighter imaging, fancier computers, widespread usage of robotic surgeries, or increased access to care. All deal with fixing the problem after it has developed. The true advances in healthcare, to make a difference in quality of life, longevity, and resistance to the next pandemic must not come from fancier and more expensive ways to patch the hole in the boat. They must come from preventing the hole from developing, to begin with. We must advance our thinking and begin by making the boat stronger and more resistant to damage in the first place.

We must begin to see that health insurance is not health insurance at all, but medical insurance —or more accurately, sickness insurance. Today’s medical system is designed to provide medical treatment or sickness care. The primary function is to match a problem with a diagnosis and provide a pill, treatment, or surgery to control but not cure that diagnosis. Our medical system is not designed to promote health and wellness, and certainly not to prevent illness in the first place. We have become a country that relies on “advances in medicine” to save us from the mess we have made of our health, rather than optimizing our health, wellness, and longevity through nutrition, exercise, rest, stress management, and healthy relationships.

We must advance our idea of health, we must begin to focus on wellness and prevention. We must learn the lessons that COVID taught us so painfully and clearly. The best defense is a good offense. Keep the body healthy, prevent the ravages of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity and people will live longer, higher quality lives, and be better able to withstand whatever the world throws at us next.

~Lawrence Hutchison, MD

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