I had a fascinating conversation recently about the role that hospitals play in communities and how that could evolve. Currently, of course, hospitals are places we go when we get sick. We associate them with illness more than wellness.
But there are some people in the industry who would like that to change. They envision hospitals as being community hubs – places that facilitate interactions between medical professionals and the community that promote health and wellness.
This potential evolution symbolizes the direction in which healthcare in general needs to move in this country. Our healthcare system focuses on treating people once there is something wrong – prescribing drugs and surgery. But if the system shifted and began to emphasize wellness and prevention, we would have a much healthier population and we would spend far less money on medical care.
As it is, our healthcare system emphasizes treatment at least in part, I believe, because our culture is not set up to support a focus on prevention. To lead a healthy lifestyle and prevent serious illness, we must get enough sleep and have time to exercise and cook healthy meals.
But we are a country of workaholics and we do not receive public support the way citizens of many other countries do. In many countries, families receive money from public funds when they have children, for example. And women are granted a much longer period of time for maternity leave than they are here. Such measures make leading a healthy lifestyle significantly more manageable.
What is more, we have been conditioned in the United States – in part by the medical community – to want quick fixes. We are less eager than we should be to alter our lifestyles in ways that will improve our health. Therefore, if we are truly going to focus on prevention, we need to create a culture that will foster our efforts.