The biggest contributor to the cost of health is the cost of the technology (pills and machines).
This means that:
- prevention is better than cure. For instance introducing housing and work schedules that allow people to go for a walk every day would save many millions from the health bill.
- that personal agency and social inclusion should be emphasised. Michael Marmot, in the Whitehall Studies, demonstrated that these are the most important factors for our health. These findings lead to health initiatives a million miles from developing new pills and machines.
- cheaper technology is better.
This can mean traditional medicines (an acupuncture needle costs a tiny amount compared even to normal pills, let alone some of the machines).
It also means counseling. As they say “talk is cheap”. And for the health budget this is a very good thing.
Our emotions have a huge influence on our health. And these emotions can be helped enormously by skilled listeners. And (contrary to the power brokers in training and the profession say) the training can be fairly quick and easy. Reflect on the times that you have been listened to. Think of the changes you have made, sometimes due to just a stray remark. Talk is not only cheap it can also bring radical change.
We can make a big difference to those around us just by listening to them.
One small bright spot in Australia is that the government has decided to fund psychologists as well as doctors under the public health scheme. This is a huge step forward (even though it is incredibly limited – you only get ten sessions). However we can also do it for each other. The biggest changes in my life have mostly come from conversations with friends, professionals can be valuable but it is mostly our friends who have the biggest influence on us. And this is the good news, we can all contribute to the health of our friends, by supporting them in taking initiatives and maintaining relationships with them, and by taking the time to help them think and feel their way through their small and big crises.
There is much that this means for the health budget and that governments and others can do. But we can all make a contribution too.