Are we starting to Commoditize our Health?

Medicine has made incredible strides over the past couple of decades. Management of conditions including medications and surgical interventions have allowed us to have greatly improved outcomes for many diseases and conditions. Surgeries that used to be extremely invasive with long recovery times have now become day surgeries that appear almost scarily normal. Heart surgery for blockages in the arteries are now extremely common place. Persons telling you that they had a double, triple even quadruple bypass surgery almost seems like “no big deal”. Sometimes people go in and out of hospital the same day!

Improved cardiac outcomes and success of these surgeries are wonderful! But talk like this also raises some concerns for me. In business, when the market becomes saturated with a product or service, it begins to lose value. It is referred to as a commoditization of the marketplace. We see it with new technologies. For example, when flat screens were new they were thousands of dollars. Now, only a relatively short time later, you can pick one up at your local Best Buy for $300.
What happens when things begin to become a commodity is that they start losing value.

But what happens when our healthcare becomes a commodity? Something that we lose value in. Are we starting to take our health for granted? Assuming that these amazing medical interventions will just fix it for us?

High blood pressure? There’s a pill for that! Knee pain? I can get a surgery! Blocked arteries? Having a quadruple bypass is a day surgery. When we start to commoditize our health care, we can begin to lose a sense of responsibility in the outcomes.

Now I’m not trying to insinuate that everyone believes this … I’m talking about the general trends.

In our current culture, persons being on medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol are extremely normal. It’s almost like it a “everyone is doing it” scenario. When I ask persons if they are on these medications, the responses I get are “oh yeah I’ve been on those for YEARS!”. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are both signs of heart disease which most people don’t think about. It means that the vessels in and around your heart are at risk and these medications are trying to stop you from having a heart attack.

I feel like for some, because these medical procedures are so “normal” and the results are usually so positive, that we are starting to lose the urgency and seriousness of what having these things mean. Heart disease is still one of the leading causes of mortality in Canada. It takes years from our lives and lowers the quality of life in the years we have left.

Preventing these things from happening become something that is placed on the back burner or things that they know they need to do eventually. With our aging population, we are starting to see the economic implications of this thinking.
We are starting to see people having heart attacks younger and younger. There are even reported cases of CHILDREN having heart attacks! Our kids have high blood pressure! There are SO many reasons for this but it is definitely something we need to start talking about.

As a collective, I feel like this mentality needs to change. We need to replace the emphasis on how serious these medical conditions are and become diligent on preventing these conditions from happening in the first place.

Stopping chronic conditions and disabilities from happening is the ultimate form of medical management. Of course, it cannot be avoided for everyone. Reducing our risk through healthy lifestyle practices is the only thing we can do.

We need to start taking it seriously.

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Christina Prevett

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