Tag Archives: health care

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading for the Weekend

This Friday I direct you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. One of my hobby horses is how the reality of socialized medicine often differs from the rhetoric surrounding it. So I was intrigued by the New York Times’ David Leonhart’s analysis of rationing in the U.S. health care system.

2. As we settle in to the second year of this recession, I was delighted to discover – via a friend – Daniel Seddiqui’s fascinating blog Living the Map: 50 Jobs in 50 States, in which he recounts his attempt to “try on” 50 different careers in 50 different states. Equally heartening¬† was this piece in the Guardian discussing the boom in adult internships here in the U.K. I’m a big fan of experimenting with different careers. Way to go!

3. My writer/journalist friend here in London, DD Guttenplan, has a new book out entitled American Radical: The Life and Times of IF Stone, about America’s premier investigative journalist of the 20th century. At a time when print journalism appears to be going the way of the travel agent, it’s instructive to learn about one man’s relentless quest for the truth and to ponder its resonances today. Listen to this interview with the author on Democracy Now.

4. Finally, because we all love to laugh, I was really pleased to happen upon this satirical blog about politics (mostly aimed at a British audience): Anna Raccoon. I also got a kick out of Middle Aged Cranky‘s rant against technology.

Enjoy your weekend!

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DIY Healthcare: Why Socialized Medicine Is For Grown Ups

On Thursday I posted about how I’m learning to master differences in vocabulary across the Atlantic divide. After living in the U.K. for two and a half years, I’m also slowly but surely coming to terms with what it’s like to live in a country with universal health care.

For starters, doctors tend to medicate way less over here unless you’re really ill. They also do fewer preventive screenings for things like breast and prostate cancer.

But one of the most surprising aspects of the British National Health System (NHS) is that it actually encourages patients to take more responsibility for monitoring their own health. I say “surprising” because one of the negative stereotypes of socialized medicine is that when you place health care in the hands of the government, you effectively create a nanny state, wherein the government – not the individual – makes decisions about personal health.

But that’s actually not quite right. Precisely because the system is designed to worry – first and foremost – about the population, patients are actually encouraged to do a lot of basic health care on their own.

So, for example, I’m rather fair and freckly by nature – and have a history of skin cancer in my immediate family. Back when I still lived in the United States, those two risk factors meant that I saw a dermatologist once a year to look for irregular moles and such. When I first moved to the U.K., I dutifully made an appointment to do the same thing over here. But the dermatologist I saw here actually discouraged me from coming in annually. Instead, she took some photos, gave me a diskette and told me to go home and continue to monitor my skin carefully. When, as, and if I found something suspicious, I should compare it to the photos and call them if things had changed. DIY skin care, if you will.

“But…but…!” I sputtered. “What if something goes wrong?”

The doctor looked puzzled. “If something ‘goes wrong’ you call us,” she said, matter-of-factly. “After all, you’re going to know there’s a problem long before we do. Just coming here once a year doesn’t prevent skin cancer.”

At first I resisted, insisting on re-booking my annual skin cancer check-up the following year. But the doctor I saw 12 months later said exactly the same thing. “It’s more efficient this way,” he explained. “Because then we see you only when it’s really necessary. But it’s also about teaching you how to look after yourself so that you take more responsibility for your own health care.”

Wow…what a radical idea. And I must admit that it felt a little strange. But you know what? By the third year, I canceled the appointment and took a look at those photos instead. And you know what?¬† In an age of responsibility, I felt more grown up.

*****

Was anyone else as troubled as I was that the piano is on its way out as a staple of the American living room? I don’t even play the piano and I still felt nostalgic when I learned this!

Image: Second Life: National Health Service (UK): by rosefirerising’s photo stream via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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