Local fitness expert Dr. Mort Malkin thinks he sees the solution to health care reform – not just different organizational schemes or payment methods, mind you, but the way to fix the very process of “health care” itself, including finding the money to pay for comprehensive universal coverage.
The answer, says Dr. Malkin, is simple: creating a true “culture of health,” including lectures and courses promoting “primary preventive medicine” in every community around the nation.
Malkin, author of Aerobic Walking – The Weight-Loss Exercise and the forthcoming Health Care Reform: No Politics Required, points out that according to the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, as much as 70% of all chronic disease could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, better diet, proper exercise, and improved stress management. Such a reduction, he reasons, would then free up more than enough money to pay for a robust “public option” and make universal single-payer health care financially viable. “There can be no political argument against promoting prevention and personal responsibility,” says Malkin. “Moreover, health education is dirt cheap compared to the costs of coronary bypass surgery, diabetic coma, back surgery, and all the prescription medications Americans consume.”
Malkin’s theories are supported by a recent study involving more than 3000 patients, divided into three groups. One group followed a diet & exercise regimen backed up with individual counseling, another was given medication to control blood sugar, and the third was the requisite “control group.” Over the following years, 28.9% of the controls developed diabetes, 21.7% of the medication group became diabetic, but only 14.1% of the diet & exercise group contracted the disease. “The key,” says Malkin, “was the counseling.” Malkin believes that the motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle doesn’t come from “food pyramids” or public-service announcements on billboards, but rather requires ongoing people-to-people contact between citizens and professional health educators in classrooms, workplaces, and parks.
Malkin would have public health professionals trained in the arts and sciences of teaching healthy lifestyle change, and make 10-week instructional programs available for all citizens, community by community. The long-term result, he maintains, would be a healthier, more productive, and more energetic populace – plus a cut of at least 50% in health care costs. “With the $800 billion savings,” says Malkin, “the uninsured can be covered, premiums for the rest of us can be reduced – and there will be money left over for Belgian chocolates (for mental health).”