Our economy can’t afford prevention
September 27, 2023
Our economy can't afford prevention

With her book ‘The Biomedical Empire’, Barbara Katz Rothman, Professor of Sociology at City University New York, makes me a bit sad. She starts with that irritating remark: “Just imagine the financial crisis around the world if we just cured sickness”. She describes the economic power of the ‘Medical Industrial Complex’. I prefer this over her “Biomedical Empire”. There is no bad intention in the driving force behind this complex, although Barbara thinks so. There is, however, a kind of inevitable development in the way we work and what we can accomplish.

The medical industry is one of the most flourishing industries globally and we patients are needed for this. Without patients there is no medical industry. Not that the profession doesn’t do any good. It does and I owe my life to it. There is a lot of good in it and done by it. And then there is the Medical Industrial Complex which is forever telling people: “Consult your doctor! How about a total body scan every 6 months? Why have you not had your child on ADHD medication?”. We work too much on symptoms and not enough on causes.

Rothman: “The US spends more on healthcare as a share of the economy, nearly twice as much as the average OECD country, yet has the lowest life expectancy…in the US alone medical marketing went from 17.7 billion in 1997 up to 29.9 billion in 2016”. We simply can’t live without healthcare as an industry. It seems we’re addicted.

So, what would happen if we all lived more healthily and only needed a doctor for ailments like a broken leg? We would definitely head into the biggest financial crisis ever. For profit and revenue reasons, prevention will never be allowed. We simply can’t afford it… unless we patient advocates take a stand and say: “Enough is enough!”. We know how to live a healthy life. We know what we need to do. Don’t ban smoking, ban the selling of tobacco. Get each child in primary and secondary school doing 5 hours of sport every week. Remove sugars from soft drinks. Drink no or less alcohol. Ban advertising for unhealthy products, we all know which ones.

Prevention will help to reduce at least 50% of cancers and 90% of cardiovascular and diabetes cases. We patient advocates have to blame and shame our governments into protecting their own citizens. And yes, in case you’re wondering, we can live with a lower-gear economy.

Peter Kapitein
Patient Advocate Inspire2Live