Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Health Care Is More Than Medicine

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Health Care Is More Than Medicine

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA | The American health care system can change for the better, but it's up to leaders to spark a conversation about real change and it's up to people to take initiative for their own health, according to a panel of speakers Sunday at the Bama Theatre.

The University of Alabama sponsored a free screening of the documentary "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare," which first appeared at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

The film examines weaknesses in the health system in the U.S. and possible ways to create a sustainable health system. Part of the problem, according to the film, is that the medical system is on a pay-per-service model and that care is too focused on prescription medicine, high-cost technology and high-cost procedures.

During the screening, more than 400 people packed the Bama Theatre, which had few empty seats. The film was followed by the panel discussion, with Bryan Kindred, CEO of the DCH Health System; Linda House Moncrief, benefits and wellness director for the city of Tuscaloosa; Charles Morgan, senior vice president for Phifer Inc.; Deborah Tucker, CEO of Whatley Health Services; and Dr. Allen Perkins, professor and chair of the department of family medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

Education of the public about health care issues is an important part in improving the system, and having people try to embrace healthier lifestyles, Tucker said. Too often, patients expect prescriptions to solve their problems.

"I challenge people to hire a physician to prescribe something other than medication," Tucker said. "We need to take responsibilities for ourselves, change our lifestyle or go some other route."

The documentary focused on unconventional ways that companies like Safeway, a grocery store chain, are helping to improve their employee's health by encouraging healthier lifestyles through deductions in insurance costs.

The city of Tuscaloosa is now researching "wellness vendors" to work with city employees in an attempt to reduce the number of employees who are overweight, smoking or have chronic diseases that can be managed with healthier lifestyles. City leaders hope that, by influencing city employees to make healthier choices, it will reduce health care costs, and serve as an example for the rest of the community.

"In the past five years, the increase in (medical) costs became so dramatic that the mayor and council have said something had to be done," Moncrief said. "The city of Tuscaloosa wants to reach out to the rest of the city to make it a bright spot to live and work and bring it into a wellness focus."

The could mean making it a city where people choose to walk their children to school, bike to work or a place where people choose to buy fruits and vegetables from a farmers market, she said.

Part of the problem in the health care industry in Alabama is that Medicare and Medicaid funding is being cut, and the system doesn't work as it should. …

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