I’ve always wondered about the decline of Rome. Why would the Roman people get distracted by a mean-spirited and meaningless circus? At what stage of a civilization do cheap thrills become the best option?

Unfortunately, nowadays, I don’t have to crack a history book to get that lesson.

If media outlets, pundits, and commentators were seriously concerned about the health of Americans, why after the President’s speech, would media coverage land upon a single word shouted by an idiot–rather than the substantive realities of American health care reform?

Of course, I know. The circus is far more entertaining than what you, I, and our loved ones will suffer due to the health care quagmire. It’s easier to fixate on a sound byte than to address a complex reality. Too bad for us and our health.

Fortunately, Andrew Weil offered a voice of sanity on Larry King show. King joked about the title of Weil’s just published book, Why Our Health Matters asking: Isn’t it obvious why our health matters?

Is it? Do we act as if health is primary?

Given all the ways Weil revealed in which American health care is off the rails, I really have to wonder:

Can we take it for granted that health really matters to Americans– when we:

• Allow a thousands year old healing art to be co-opted and turned into an industry accountable for bottom line profits, not health?

• Permit that industry to make profits higher than any other commodity in our society, while people go bankrupt and their health suffers–even after we watched other unregulated industries topple our economy?

• Stand by as that industry donates millions of dollars to legislators to buy legislation that governs health care–and then fear executive branch leadership that tries to restore programs for the public good?

• Okay direct to consumer drug advertising so that most TV show push drugs?

• Hope that media reporting is honest when it’s paid for by drug advertising?

• Believe that scientific studies published in medical journals are scientific even when those journals are paid for by industry advertising–as is much of the research itself?

• Look on in confusion as health care politics degenerates into a talking point mud wrestle?

• Irrationally believe that doctors like Weil who recommend prevention and health promotion stand opposed to insurance coverage–even though he and other integrative doctors have repeatedly supported universal coverage?

• Are so health disempowered that any suggestion to take better care of our health in the basic ways available to us– evokes a terrible two’s response in so many?

Americas pay lip service to health. But we all too easily get diverted by a media circus–and any old fear-mongering PR campaign can throw us off course. We’ll vote against our own self-interest based on a meaningless slogan or the color of someone’s tie. We’ll jump on board to comment on the latest media frisson, but ignore the fundamental realities of health care and health economics. We believe in a myth (American health care is number one) and ignore the reality–we rank with the Serbians. We overlook basic ways to preserve health and then scream for drugs. We trust high tech services and distrust healthy foods and the gifts of nature. Are we getting the health care we deserve?

On Larry King and in his terrific book, Why Our Health Matters, Weil’s is the most responsible voice in this debate. He is asking that people be responsible, that legislators be responsible, and that health industries be responsible to the people they serve– not to executive profit. Yet some view his frank look at how to lower costs as a frilly add-on– rather than a far-sighted, strategic, and systemic way to save our collective butts.

A true solution won’t give you an adrenaline rush like the latest media fracas, but we need to do what Weil recommends as the three ways to assure better health care at lower cost:

1. Build some form of government sponsored plan to create leverage to lower insurance rates and negotiate favorable pricing on standard medical care

2. Lower health costs through the lifestyle/preventive measures

3. Assure that both government and private programs enact health promoting policies across the board

If your health matters to you, I highly recommend that you read Weil’s new book.

We’ll get the health care that has been imposed upon us, until we rise up, take responsibility and demand the health care we deserve.

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Copyright, 2009, Alison Rose Levy. All rights reserved.

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