What do you mean, our economy can’t afford prevention?

What do you mean, our economy can’t afford prevention?

With her book “The Biomedical Empire”, Barbara Katz Rothman, a medical sociologist from New York University, 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 in this complex, although Barbara thinks so. There is a kind of inevitable development in the way we work and what is accomplished.

The medical industry is one of the most flourishing industries and we patients are needed for this. Without patients there’s no revenue and no profit. It’s sad and hard to say but it’s the reality. Not that the medical profession doesn’t do any good. They do and I owe my life to it. There is a lot of good in it and done by it. And there is that Medical Industrial Complex that is unstoppable in telling people “Consult your doctor, how about a total body scan every 6 months, did you not have your child on medicines for ADHD (a socially structured disease)”? We work on the symptoms. Not the 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.

So, what if we all lived more healthily and only needed a doctor for 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 make a stand and say: “Enough is enough!”. We know that we can live a healthy life. We know how this is possible. Don’t forbid smoking, forbid the selling of tobacco. Get each child in primary and secondary school doing 5 hours of sport every week. No sugars in soft drinks anymore. No or less alcohol. No advertising for unhealthy products (we all know which ones).

Prevention will prevent at least 50% of cancers, 90% of cardiovascular diseases and 90% of diabetes cases. We patient advocates have to blame and shame our governments and ask them to protect their own citizens. And yes, we can live with an economy in a lower gear.

Peter Kapitein
Patient Advocate Inspire2Live