Our expert answers 3 Questions
I am thinking about “a new way to do healthcare in the U.S." To promote a high quality of life while also containing the rapid increase in national healthcare costs, we need to have a strategic change in the healthcare system in the U.S., a view I’ve reached through my more than 30 years of training and working at the University of Michigan.
Through my personal academic interest and cultural heritage in China, I have become engaged in studying traditional Chinese medicine in recent years. I believe that we can adopt some traditional Chinese health strategies into our health practices in the U.S.
Since the 1980's, I have been working in the field of population heath management and conducting cutting-edge research in the field of workplace wellness promotion and disease prevention. However, the current U.S. healthcare system is built around the supply side of healthcare and is dominated by disease care and management. Our healthcare workforce has worked very hard to keep the “patients” living longer and better under a reactive mode. Although disease prevention has been emphasized in recent years, including in the Affordable Care Act, this is not enough. We have found two-way health transitions among the working population: most people move from zero or low health risks into medium and high risks as they age, and a small segment of people transfer back from high risks to lower risks with a lot of effort and intervention. Among all members of this population, their probabilities of incurring disease and their healthcare costs move in the same upward directions as their health risks change. Thus, keeping people at zero or low health risk is a proactive and efficient strategy to preventing diseases at the population level. Our major health focuses, as health professionals, should move from preventing diseases to improving health and vitality, since health is so much more than just the absence of disease. Actually, this concept is not new in traditional Chinese medicine. A phrase translated as “the best medical doctor cures the people without diseases” appeared in The Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic, the most important ancient text in Chinese medicine as well as a major book of Daoist theory and lifestyle, written about 2200 to 2500 years ago. Traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of lifestyle on health, which matches our beliefs and efforts in the field of wellness promotion and disease prevention today. Therefore, we need to position our health strategy ahead of preventing diseases - a new way to do healthcare in the U.S. As a result, we should invest more into our wellness promotion and enhancement of vitality, as this will eventually contain our healthcare cost increases and improve our quality of life.