Here’s the third episode of Health in 2 point 00, hosted by Jessica DaMassa. This week the tech and parties of HIMSS18 are looming on the horizon and she asks me as many questions as I can answer in two minutes. Hope you enjoy it! And if you have questions please leave them in the comments–Matthew Holt
If all of us were simply to make better use of our feet, our forks, and our fingers — if we were to be physically active every day, eat a nearly optimal diet, and avoid tobacco — fully 80 percent of the chronic disease burden that plagues modern society could be eliminated. Really.
Better use of feet, forks, and fingers — and just that — could reduce our personal lifetime risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, serious respiratory disease, or diabetes by roughly 80 percent. The same behaviors could slash both the human and financial costs of chronic disease, which are putting our children’s futures and the fate of our nation in jeopardy. Feet, forks, and fingers don’t just represent behaviors we have the means to control; they represent control we have the means to exert over the behavior of our genes themselves.
Feet, forks, and fingers could reshape our personal medical destinies, and modern public health, dramatically, for the better. We have known this for decades. So why doesn’t it happen?
Because a lot stands in the way. For starters, there’s 6 million years of evolutionary biology. Throughout all of human history and before, calories were relatively scarce and hard to get, and physical activity — in the form of survival — was unavoidable. Only in the modern era have we devised a world in which physical activity is scarce and hard to get and calories are unavoidable. We are adapted to the former, and have no native defenses against the latter.
Then, there’s roughly 12,000 years of human civilization. Since the dawn of agriculture, we have been applying our large Homo sapien brains and ingenuity to the challenges of making our food supply ever more bountiful, stable, and palatable; and the demands on our muscles ever less. With the advent of modern agricultural methods and labor-saving technologies of every conception, we have succeeded beyond our wildest imaginings.
So now, we are victims of our own success. Obesity and related chronic diseases might well be called “SExS” — the “syndrome of excessive successes.”
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), health insurers are scrambling to reinvent themselves for a new era. In an earlier post, I quoted Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini as saying he wants to create a business model that makes sense under the new rules and regulations. In a recent speech Bertolini explained, “We need to move the system from underwriting risk to managing populations. We want to have a different relationship with the providers, physicians and hospitals we do business with.”
Starting with Aetna, this analysis will examine the ways that insurance companies are trying to reinvent themselves for a reformed health care delivery system that often wonders why we need health insurers at all.