HuffPo: “We’re Asking Health Care to Fix Something It Didn’t Break”

Friday, June 6, 2014

NCMLP’s Ellen Lawton and Megan Sandel wrote an article for the Huffington Post this week where they discuss the social sources of illness, why preventing illness requires healthier policies, and why healthcare can’t do it alone.

We’re Asking Health Care to Fix Something It Didn’t Break

We’re starting to understand that poverty causes illness, not just for individuals, but for whole communities. Yet we talk about the effects of substandard housing, poor nutrition, and violence in a vacuum separate from the laws and policies that create and perpetuate these problems in the first place. And then we ask health care to clean up the mess.

Apartment BuildingHealth care has long been in the business of treating the negative health effects of bad social policy. When there isn’t enough safe affordable housing, when sanitary codes are unenforced and when cuts are made to housing voucher programs, doctors treat people for the injuries and asthma that ensue. When people live in food deserts without access to healthy food, or their SNAP applications are wrongfully denied, nurses help patients manage the low blood sugar episodes for diabetics who are hungry. And health care spends a lot of money doing it.

Now more than ever, with the prevention mandates of health reform, we are asking health care to be in the business of preventing illness. That’s a tall order when so much of what makes people sick are underenforced laws and policies, underfunded public programs and ill-conceived public policies way outside the scope of what health care professionals are trained to do. Indeed research shows that only about fifteen percent of preventable illness can be improved with access to better medical care alone.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post.