The CDC has put out an interactive map of heart disease and stroke so you can compare your state or even county with the rest of the country. It offers data on mortality, hospitalizations and even penetration of generalist and subspecialist availability.
What I found interesting was the lack of definitive association between access to generalists or subspecialists and mortality. While rural areas with a low penetration of physicians generally had a higher mortality than urban centers, many urban centers with a high penetration of generalists and subspecialist also had a high mortality as well. One could presume that rural America has many factors separate and independent of health care that affects their mortality rate. The same could be said for urban America.
Take a look at at many large urban centers in this country and you’ll notice a high penetration of doctors (generalists and subspecialists) and a high mortality related to heart disease and stroke.
What does that tell you? It tells me that access to doctors and hospitals, insurance and all the great technology that premiums and the Medicare National Bank can buy does not save lives. What American doctors offer to patients, for the most part, are band aids. As I say over and over again at The Happy Hospitalist: Health is not something the medical community can give you with your insurance dollars. Rich old smokers die just as prematurely as poor old smokers. It’s not the money that buys health but rather how you live your life.
Health is something you earn through hard work and self sacrifice. It’s one reason I make an effort to exercise frequently and make conscious decisions about what I eat and how much I eat. I know what my limitations are as a physician and I definitely know the limitations and complications that come with technology driven health care.
How ever you choose to live your life, be aware that the safety net of American health care is going to come to an end. It has to. There simply isn’t enough money to continue down the path we have taken as a nation. The economic realities of being told no are going to jolt this nation into either a cause for action or a cause for revolt. How we decide to respond will speak volumes as to the character of our country.
Either way, it ain’t going to be pretty. I do know that if you aren’t working hard today to stay healthy tomorrow, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself when you are put at the back of the line. Whatever your motivation, you need to find it and run with it.
*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*