Focus on Health

By Nee, Eric | Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Focus on Health


Nee, Eric, Stanford Social Innovation Review


During the last two years there has been an outcry from Tea Partiers and other critics about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-which opponents have cleverly dubbed "Obamacare." The focus of the criticism has been the mandate that everyone must have some type of health insurance. Critics call the mandate socialism. Supporters call it pragmatism.

What has been lost in the Sturm und Drang is any concern about health. By focusing on the mandate, critics have taken attention away from other important aspects of the act, such as its efforts to get the health care system to focus more on keeping people healthy and less on treating disease.

In this issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review we are privileged to offer you a more thoughtful perspective on how to improve health care. Our cover story, "Realigning Healthwith Care," is written by three prominent experts in the field-Rebecca Onie, co-founder and CEO of Health Leads and a Mac-Arthur Fellow, Paul Farmer, Harvard Medical School professor and co-founder of Partners in Health; and Heidi Behforouz, Harvard Medical School assistant professor and medical and executive director of the Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment Project.

The article makes a number of important points. The US health care system is in crisis. The United States spends far more on health care than any other country, yet Americans are among the least healthy people in the industrialized world. The United States ranks 36th in life expectancy and 46th in infant mortality. Health indicators in some US communities bear a striking resemblance to developing world nations like Bangladesh.

Two of the principal reasons that the US population is becoming less healthy, the authors assert, are a shortage of primary care doctors and rising poverty. …

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