I don't talk about my feelings very often but I sometimes wonder why my two boys and my daughter don't come see me more often. What in the world did I do to them? I think they are mad at me because their mother passed away too soon. Maybe if she hadn't given all those hours, months and years she would still be around.
You have to be Canadian to understand the right of passage known as "The Polar Bear Plunge." I jumped into the freezing cold water to raise funds for Special Olympics. That inspired me to write this blog on how important heart rate is, and the joy of sport.
Flu shots have raised similar alarms in young children. In the 2011 flu season, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed 42 cases of seizures, 36 of them involving infants and 10 of them deemed "serious," after vaccination with Fluzone, a vaccine made by Sanofi-Pasteur.
One thing Americans and Canadians can agree on is that we don't want each other's health care systems. In truth, most Americans don't know how Canada's system works and Canadians don't know much about the U.S. system. Yes, there are waiting lists for some services -- but, no, Canadians are not coming across the border in droves to get American care. Separating fact from opinion as the Canadian ambassador long ago urged was something I tried to do as I made my way across Canada while visiting there recently. In some ways, the Canadian system is very different from U.S. health care. In other ways, it's very much the same and faces similar challenges in the years ahead.
And as nations are just starting to get their heads around how to solve the obesity crisis, surely we shouldn't dump everything out of our toolbox before the real work has even started. We need to keep our public policy options open, to make room for initiatives to clean up a food environment that is literally killing us.
We know that the U.S. has the most expensive health care in the world. But beyond noting that dubious achievement, we seldom ask why. On my recent visit to Canada as a Fulbright scholar, I stopped by to pose that question to one of their leading health care experts, David Dodge, an economist who has served as federal deputy health minister and seven terms as governor of the Bank of Canada.
We actually know quite a lot about what makes Canadian health policy so effective. Population health approaches to improving social conditions, as well as public health prevention and health promotion measures taken across the country, have helped to reduce both chronic disease and acute illness. The Canadian portrait compares favourably to the American, but how does our healthcare investment compare to other developed nations in the study? Here, Canada falls short. Canada ranked 8th of 27 countries, while the US came in at 22nd.
If the current investment in physician compensation was intended to improve the accessibility of medical care, then the data from Quebec show that this was a policy failure. Not only was there no improvement, but the problem actually worsened. In Quebec, it appears we are investing more money to pay more physicians to get less care.
The term, health care 'super utilizers' or 'super users,' was first coined by Dr. Jeff Brenner of Camden, New Jersey to describe individuals who, despite very high levels of health intervention and expense, are still suffering from very ill health. His work also outlines the existence of 'medical hot spots' -- specific areas in a community that often incur the highest health bills.
Healthcare in Canada is anything but free. The average Canadian family of two parents with two children (similar to Walt's family in the drama) pays approximately $11,320 in taxes for hospital and physician care through the country's tax system, in addition to the cost of private insurance for things like dental care and outpatient prescription drugs.
It is my belief, as a Canadian who has lived in the U.S. for several years now and writes about drug development and medicine for a living, that standard of care isn't good enough when standards of care are poor. Why stick to a treatment regimen for all patients when the results are so dismal? In the absence of anything better to offer, why not at least offer patients and their families choice? There are many things that I admire about the Canadian healthcare system. Inflexibility is not one of them.
Very few would dispute the fact that Canada has a doctor shortage. Patients are forced to resort to emergency rooms and walk-in clinics for their primary care, and with more and more doctors set to retire, the problem will only worsen over the next years. What is often not reported, however, is that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
Over the next three years, the Ontario government plans to begin partially funding hospitals based on the number of patients they treat and the quality of care they provide. It's an ambitious plan that could fall flat or set a new global benchmark. No country has yet managed to set a price on high-quality care.
Maintaining the status quo is not sufficient for Canadians to retain pride in our health-care system. The time for reform is now. So how can Canadian policy-makers implement more coordinated care? We argue that virtual multi-specialty networks may be a useful model of care delivery.
It is something we are often reminded to do, meet with our general practitioners on a regular basis to prevent terminal or debilitating illnesses. What's often forgotten by us, but by our doctors too, is that our mind is part of our body.
There is an ongoing campaign to convince health care providers, decision-makers and the public that generic medications cannot be trusted and that if you want the real goods you need to pay the brand name price. The line is actually a twist, a re-packaging of some complicated statistics into an easy-to-understand sound bite, but one with the unfortunate weakness of not being true.