Why Obamas Faith in Docs Portends Little Change in Our Approach to Health Care; Salatin in New Food Movie
There’s been a tendency on the part of some of us ne’er-say-die types to hope that, once President Obama got past this economic crisis stuff (and forgetting about whatever giveaways he’s engaged in on the financial front), he’d be ready to think hard about this country’s real healthcare issues.
We’d learn that his letter during the summer of 2007, expressing support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s war on raw milk was just an aberration, an example of an overzealous staffer handling his correspondence. When he focused on the real issues, we’d find out that his intelligence and thoughtfulness could lead to real change in such health care issues as:
The conflict between conventional and holistic care; the plague of chronic disease; the over-emphasis on reducing fat consumption; the shrill warnings about raw dairy and the coming crackdown on food-borne illness via ever-tougher regulations on small farms.
But in a new interview published in today’s New York Times, Obama provides the first true insight I’ve seen as to how he views the conventional healthcare system, from a patient perspective, and I’m afraid it aligns perfectly with the letter he wrote supporting the FDA and opposing raw dairy. It’s a very long interview, but here are the key two paragraphs:
“I have always said, though, that we should not overstate the degree to which consumers rather than doctors are going to be driving treatment, because, I just speak from my own experience, I’m a pretty-well-educated layperson when it comes to medical care; I know how to ask good questions of my doctor. But ultimately, he’s the guy with the medical degree. So, if he tells me, You know what, you’ve got such-and-such and you need to take such-and-such, I don’t go around arguing with him or go online to see if I can find a better opinion than his.
“And so, in that sense, there’s always going to be an asymmetry of information between patient and provider.”
"An asymmetry of information" is technocratese for "the professionals and bureaucrats know more about your health than you do, and don't you ever forget it."
I appreciate that part of his intent is to reassure physicians they won’t lose out in government-backed health care, but that isn’t really the issue he’s addressing. He’s telling us how he sees his role as a patient, and it’s the traditional role—tell me what to do doc-- through and through.
I've admired Obama's throughtfulness and level-headedness--he's such a wonderful contrast to our previous president--but it’s clear this guy has never had to deal with a difficult medical problem of his own or in his family, that’s required him to reflect on the reality that most doctors know nothing about nutrition, and so disparage it and over-depend on pharmaceuticals and surgery. From his perspecitve as someone who's always been healthy, what the docs say seems to be working.
Since he’s never had to question the system for himself, it’s going to be very difficult for him to understand why he should question it on behalf of others.
Virginia farmer and teacher Joel Salatin stars in a new documentary due out later this month, entitled "Fresh". According to its web site, the documentary "celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet." You can also see a trailer at the site, and obtain a schedule of screenings around the country.