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Reform health care with an ounce of prevention

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POSTED March 5, 2009 4:38 a.m.
One of my earliest memories is repeatedly running into things as a kid.

Part of it had to do with the fact I’m a klutz – and still am to a large degree.

After one particularly nasty hit where I clipped the railing to the back stairs of our home in Roseville, neighbor Catherine Gates who was also a teacher suggested I might have a vision problem. That ended up being a slight understatement.

Both my eyes had issues, the right worse than the left. I had to wear an eye patch for close to eight months due to an extremely lazy eye. When it came off, the eye surgeon who was treating me at the time – Dr. Clinton Pace – put me into bifocals.

The taunting was incredible. Take a 5-year-old kid who was overweight and you can just imagine the cutting remarks from other kids and adults alike.

In all honesty, it hurt but you didn’t have to worry about me not wanting to wear glasses. It was the difference between day and night. I could see things clearly. I discovered that once fuzzy images actually were crisp. I could read.

I understand today just how fortunate I am to have been born in 1956 instead of 1856. It would have been next to impossible – if not impossible – to obtain glasses that allow me to read and do the things I do every day. The therapy that allowed me to go from everything being fuzzy to bifocals to regular glasses by my early 20s simply didn’t exist. I have since slipped back into bifocals and now trifocals but I’m not complaining.

It struck me on Wednesday how fortunate we are to live in a day and age where we take things such as decent eye care for granted while I was having my eyes examined by Dr. Gregory Miller.

Optometrists like Miller who are thorough and diligent while keeping up on the latest technologies for eye care rarely get the appreciation they deserve. Their fascination and devotion to the care of the eye has improved and saved the vision of millions allowing them to lead productive and full lives.

Sight is one of those things we tend to take for granted.

The priority most of us place on eye care – much like dental care – speaks volumes of how we have our priorities messed up.

We’ll spend tons of money on the latest TV or the coolest computer graphics often with the attitude paying top dollar is worth the price, yet we will ignore the most basic device in enjoying visual pleasures - our eyes.

About a month ago an acquaintance was whining about how “expensive” an eye exam was. He had just spent $100 going to the optometrist. However, just a few months earlier he had rushed out to buy the latest Blackberry shelling out well over $300 without complaining once about how much he spent.

That Blackberry would be pretty useless without your sight or without sharp sight.

The friend didn’t need glasses but I can imagine how he’d react if he had to spend another $200 to $300 or so. I guarantee you he didn’t complain when he spent $1,200 a few years back on a big screen TV.

Perhaps living the good life that we do today – and we really do despite all the wailing over the greed-cession that we find ourselves in – has made us complacent.

Much of our health care woes are the direct result of us not taking care of the most amazing machine of all – our own bodies. If we spent as much on preventative care for ourselves as we did software for every electronic gizmo we owned, the cost of health care would be a lot less.

Government can’t pass a bailout bill for our health. The only real way to improve health is to stop abusing our bodies.

No one is perfect. We’re all fallible. That said, it is more than a bit disingenuous when someone who has spent their entire life on a high cholesterol diet suddenly is faced with costly heart surgery and then screams how cost prohibitive it is especially if his insurance carrier won’t cover the entire bill. And too often we sue if a doctor doesn’t have a miracle pill that works.

Yes, some ailments happen regardless but there are more than not that can be attributed to our own bad habits and a refusal to treat out bodies more like a temple instead of acting like they’re a toxic waste dump.

It’s funny how brilliant we think we are today when words that were uttered more than 200 years ago by Benjamin Franklin provide the only real answer to health care reform, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
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