The Last American Patient

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 - 2:00 am - By James A. Binger and Robert A. Coleman

Four hundred thousand Americans die each year due to poor diet and/or physical inactivity. For most of us, we give little thought to the prevention of disease. We only wait to become fully engaged with the status of our health until after "a diagnosis" is made. Until then, good health is taken for granted.

What if instead our society valued the goal of keeping people well as much as we do of treating them once they are unwell? What if the business of wellness and prevention was as profitable as that of treating disease? What if we created wellness experiences so compelling that people changed their lifestyles?

No, this is not a fantasy, it is an economic necessity. The so-called "tipping point" in health care is fast approaching. Consider these examples: Each year, the American public spends $230 billion out-of-pocket for lifestyle products and services. Spas are growing at a rate of 6 percent per year. Consumer-directed health-care plans will account for $88 billion in premium revenues in 2007, a five-fold increase over 2005. The number of books, magazines and newspaper and journal articles devoted to health and healthy lifestyle options is exploding. And maybe the most compelling example of all, this year for the first time in its history, the American Hospital Association placed wellness and prevention on its advocacy agenda for health-care reform.

Many people and organizations are joining the drive for better health. Hospitals across the nation are making community health a part of their mission. Many are building medical fitness centers to extend their continuum of care. Commercial health clubs are including nutrition and other health-related classes to their list of services. Resort developers, led by The Cliffs Communities, are building wellness lifestyle communities.

Click on circles for more details
Site Map