Toward a Local Healthcare Movement
There are easy analogies to be drawn between re-localizing healthcare and the currently popular local food movement (LFM). The LFM has been around for over 50 years but has gained significant popularity in recent years for several possible reasons:
- A “super-size fits all” food mentality offers nothing in the way of creative or unique eating experience and people are now demanding more variety
- The obesity epidemic…?
- Great marketing!
- People are tired of not knowing where their food comes from
In my mind, the first and fourth bullets could also support the need for a local healthcare movement.
A “super-size-fits-all” healthcare mentality offers nothing in the way of a personal healthcare experience and there should be a greater demand for it.
For over a decade, I saw the same doctor. During my last appointment, when I asked her for information on a personal health condition, her response was: “I don’t read the layperson text.” I was dumbfounded… It was then that I realized that, after all this time, I didn’t have a relationship with this doctor and, apparently, I was nothing more than the “next head of cattle” in her herd of nameless patients.
What I wanted was a doctor who wanted to engage me in my health long-term. In order for a doctor to be able to do that, it has to be a partnership. We both have to have committed to being partners in my healthcare over time. That is the only way to establish a relationship to manage my health.
Remember Little House on the Prairie? Imagine a modern day “Doc Baker of Walnut Grove”. This man knew up to 3 generations in a single family, having helped in the birthing of parents, children, and grandchildren. This type of doctor/patient relationship is still possible today, however, as the patient, the onus is on me to find that doctor and establish that relationship.
People are tired of not knowing “where their healthcare comes from”
The word “Local” in “Local Food Movement” doesn’t appear to have an official definition by any authoritative body. Numerous sources cite an amendment to the Farm Bill of 2008 where “local” is defined as “(I) the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product; or ‘‘(II) the State in which the product is produced.”
400 miles. I live in Atlanta so that is roughly a circumference that would involve Louisville, KY (421mi), Raleigh, NC (437mi), Orlando, FL (438mi), Jackson, MS (381mi) and Memphis, TN (384mi).
While I am willing for my food to come from that distance, I would rather my healthcare be truly local. I want a doctor that is from my community, knows me and my family and can identify with my socio-economic lifestyle. I want a doc who not only knows my medical history but wants to partner with me in my health over time.
So I sought one out. After some “misses”, I finally found the modern-day Doc Baker of Walnut Grove. My general practitioner’s practice is 1.5 miles from my home. I can walk there. Many of my friends and neighbors also see him. When I walk in for an appointment, he can recall my health history as well as the in-depth conversations we have had about my health. It is refreshing and very reassuring to be pro-actively engaged in my health and to no longer be a “head of cattle”.
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