America is a country unlike any other, in ways both good and bad. While some of the health issues we’re dealing with are also problems in other parts of the world, some of them seem to be more uniquely American. Our methods of providing healthcare could probably stand to be more efficient, but change is hard, and there’s a ton of resistance built up in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. That said, we do have some of the most advanced medical science in the world. Breakthroughs are still happening here, and that’s encouraging news. We may have trouble deciding how much to charge people when they go to the emergency room, but we’re great when it comes to innovation. We’ll need all that innovation and more as we tackle some of the most pressing health issues of our time.
Treating and curing cancer
There are many worthy cancer charities devoted to curing a particular type of cancer. Breast cancer charities in particular get a lot of money and publicity. In October, you can’t walk into your local grocery store without being bombarded with pink bags of chips and pink yogurt containers. Awareness of a disease is good, but improving the odds of surviving that particular disease are even better. On the breast cancer front, there’s good news: survival rates have been increasing for the last few decades. But if you have pancreatic cancer or brain cancer, the survival rates aren’t nearly as promising. More funds need to be devoted to studying more types of cancer. Early detection remains critical, and, all too often, the level of care someone gets depends in large part on how much money he or she has or how good the person’s insurance is. When someone has cancer, he or she should be able to go to a reputable facility like Regional Cancer Care Associates and worry only about getting better, not about the bill. We’ve all seen the crowdfunding campaigns for friends facing cancer, but no one with any form of the disease should need a fundraiser to avoid financial ruin.
The opioid crisis
The pills come in regular prescription bottles and bear names like Vicodin and Percocet. Doctors issue millions of prescriptions a year for these pills, often to people who are recovering from major surgery. Some people can take the pills for exactly as long as they need to take them, then dispose of them safely and never think about them again. An increasingly high number of patients, however, start to rely on the pills. They may try doctor-shopping as a way of replenishing their supply. They may even resort to stealing from the medicine cabinets of friends or family members. They can also die from an accidental overdose; the opioid epidemic is responsible for thousands of overdose deaths every year. One reason we got here? We trusted gigantic pharmaceutical companies too much when they reassured people that this class of drugs really wasn’t that addictive. Prescription painkillers like Vicodin are in the same class of drug as heroin, so that was wishful thinking on the part of doctors or outright deceit on the part of drug makers. It may have been both. It was only last year that the federal government declared the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency. That’s a start, but it’s not enough. The country must pour way more money and resources into solving this, because lives are being lost every day.