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The root of the health care problem

Where are we on health care? We have made a political debate out of health care, which exceeds any federal or state government’s capacity to solve. Whatever evolution the remedies take, statutory and regulatory thrusts and parries will be insufficient. Yet, wisdom in the deliberation and passage of such efforts will be required.

Partisan banter must give way to real help. This year, especially, as the state Legislature and regulatory bodies cope with readying Arizona for the continuing implementation of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, there is no time for posturing or mere personal self- interest. Too much is at stake. Here’s why.

For perspective, “Escape Fire,” the sparsely released film (soon, more fully so and available now online) shown at the Sundance Film Festival, scopes the magnitude of the health care problem in the United States and promises to set forth some possible solutions. The tenor can be gleaned from the trailer and much information can be gathered from its website www.escapefiremovie.com.

A couple of salient and jarring points the film makes: First, American health care costs could be $4.2 trillion annually in six to 10 years, equaling 20 percent of GDP. Second, Americans spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs, nearly equal to the expenditure in the entire rest of the world.

One of the players in the film makes a sanguine comment that if she could shape the future of health care, there would be more emphasis on the “care” part. Another player in the film, our own Dr. Andrew Weil, head of the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM), asserts that “the root of the problem” is that “we have a disease-care system, not a health care system.”

The title of the film, “Escape Fire,” gives us a clue as to the ingenuity that will be required to extricate America from its self- created, monopolistic dependency on the current system. In brief, the title refers to smoke jumpers in a forest fire who were left with no escape until one member of the team started a fire in the remaining timber around them, subsequently burning his way out to a ridge. He survived. The others felt the risk was too high and didn’t follow.

They perished.

Addressing health care will require less familiar, broader solutions than what the majority has done for past decades. It will take courage to forfeit the popular, yet limiting, assumptions about our sources of health. We need to change habits of thought that tend to lead unwittingly to the same solutions that have led to the problem.

Fortunately, there are more means of health and care than we find in the mainstream.

Weil’s CIM teaches existing physicians about finding health care solutions through a focus on caring for the person as a whole, rather than just focusing on the malady. Solutions are not limited to surgery and chemistry, but found through the fuller spectrum of health sources, including natural and spiritual methods.

For me, spiritual means have been my main source of health. The primary benefit is that it requires that I take direct responsibility for my health and that I progress in my understanding of how I, and mankind, relate to the divine. It is a view of life — not a pill — that has provided prevention and cure. It is a sense of being loved and cared for as a matter of principle, consistently and completely.

This approach has met my needs, not only with respect to disease but, also, with respect to work, relationships and life direction. It settles fear. There is little or no cost. It is my own escape fire.

I trust that whatever efforts come forth from the Legislature and the agencies will not limit, but rather open up the possibilities for health and care. I trust that these efforts will not confine us to the old, worn, expensive paths to health. Such expansiveness would exemplify care for citizens and prompt creative, more effective solutions.

— Rich Evans, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona.


  1. Thanks for this insightful article. Being open to new possibilities and meeting the needs of the American people is vital to making our new healthcare act a success. These ideas were so reasonable – I thank you for sharing them.

  2. Taking responsibility for one’s health…I love it.

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