Thursday, June 28, 2012

Make Healthcare Accessible

YOU have the fundamental right to see a doctor regardless of social or financial standing.

It breaks my heart to hear about single mothers who sacrifice their health to provide for their children:

  • I know an amazing single mother who was struggling to get by. She prayed that she wouldn't get into an accident because healthcare was not an option. She had to take care of her son. That money had to go toward making sure he was covered... nevermind her own health.
  • There's another woman who didn't see a doctor practically her entire adult life because she needed to make ends meet for her kids. In other words, she didn't get a mammogram. She died from breast cancer.
Why are we comfortable buying car insurance, but anti-health insurance? My guess why: because the financial liability is clearer in a car crash, whereas there is no immediate gratification to navigating health plans. 

And the choices we have suck. Self-bought insurance plans are too expensive for "high risk" groups (with prior existing conditions or elders) and too expensive for "healthy" groups (youngins who may not have employer health benefits).

The inequity of access is exacerbated in rural or small town America where clinical care (something as simple as a 24-hour pharmacy) is limited or non existent. Residents in these small towns have health insurance, but they don't have access to the care they need.

Recently, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that allows for the new healthcare law to move forward. It will hold insurance companies more accountable, lower health care costs, and improve the quality of care.

There are obviously many supportive and opposing voices around this issue and I respect everyone's opinion. And here's what I think: I fully support The Affordable Care Act because it provides better access to care. While it might not be a perfect piece of legislation, the law will provide coverage for 30 million people who otherwise have no access to insurance.

While observing the political bickering, I can't help but think how making change is not easy; it's a process. At least we're starting somewhere! We can't just stick our head in the sand and pretend like our health problems will fade away on their own.

And since we're already on topic... how about a reality check? The most common diseases today are caused by lifestyle choices and excessive consumption. Diseases which are preventative.

We will save so much money in the long run by promoting wellness and preventative medicine instead of sending people to the ER when it's already too late. And sadly, it becomes a cycle of disease, passed from generation to generation because parents teach their children to make the same poor food choices. The victims of childhood obesity suffer most because they don't know any better. This is a community issue, not just a parenting issue.

How does the community take ownership?

  • By promoting health eating via healthy school lunches.
  • By offering more walkable routes and green spaces in our neighborhoods.
  • By caring about low-income communities where crime and high traffic deter people from physical exercise.

The health status of our country has many complicated factors and offering affordable healthcare is just one aspect (not the silver bullet) to cure our communities' public health burdens.

We have to be proactive about our health.

I assure you healthcare organizations are also doing their part to fight the spiraling costs of care. I work for Swedish the largest healthcare provider in Seattle. For the past 6 years, they have been working diligently to improve quality, reduce costs and increase access to care. Not to mention the large amount of charity care the organization provides. And I'm personally making it my mission to build new efficiencies and broaden our doctors' reach via technology.

Health is not just's mental and emotional too. Which means reducing stress is also important. So I've decided to tune out the conservative versus liberal bruhaha.

Why is our healthcare subject to the whims of controversy-lovers and drama queens?

Additional Resources:

  • Here is an amazing resource from Reddit to learn about the law
  • Or hear it directly from the White House here
  • BTW- I should also mention that there are alternative healthcare resources for eligible low income families in metropolitan areas like Seattle like Neighborcare which is an amazing organization.

[p.s. the views expressed in this blog do not reflect that of my employer]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Clear Vision

My buds at Rivet & Sway launched their site today. I adore their eyeware, so when they asked me to model glasses for them, I jumped at the chance.

One particular pair (Kairos) has a special place in my heart because of it's description—it's so suitable for Gentle Lift. Let me share it with you:

What a concept – Kairos.

Wikipedia says:
"Kairos was central to the Sophists, who stressed the rhetor's ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing, contingent circumstances. In Panathenaicus, Isocrates writes that educated people are 'those who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day, and who possess a judgment which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely misses the expedient course of action."

Love the concept of rising to the occasion. In my line of work, I encounter complex challenges on a daily basis. As I try to navigate unchartered territory, stress doesn't enter the equation. My mantra is simply "assess the situation as it unfolds." My confidence comes from my team because I know we'll find success if we try our best to understand. Yes, there's learning, yes, there's knowledge. But the most important goal is understanding.

Understand what exactly? To quote author David Wallechinsky, “Behind every scientific discovery, every engineering feat, every movie, every song or work of art, and every historical event are human beings. The human beings, real people just like the ones we see every day, achieved their results by thinking, working, and consulting with others.” I think it's a pretty darn useful to seek to understand other people, as well as our selves. It means understanding the world around us, and the world inside.

How? By opening our eyes and asking the right questions. Sorta like a pair of glasses. Our vision tends to blur over time with age. But we wear corrective lenses. Our trusty glasses can put the world into focus and we then see things we never dreamed possible.

Why the effort? Because, we are faced with so many choices. Clear vision helps gives us the power to select the best course of action given the situation at hand. The the value of clarity is a positive result.

Anyway, this post's call to action is not to buy glasses (although you could do that too). It's to explore the world around us, ask questions, and never lose our childish curiosity. That's why I try to study other religions, cultures, histories. It's the only way to understand this crazy beautiful world and the crazy beautiful people in it.

And yes, I do firmly believe we should all look hella stylish doing it. Check out Rivet & Sway. ;) 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How Free Is Our Will

Sometimes I wonder: am I free to make my own choices, or is my behavior determined by my genetic code? By the chemicals in my brain? By my social environment?  

Philosophers have put forth some interesting food for thought-

Do we have free will? In other words, do we act solely on our own accord? Without being forced to be influenced by others or natural law?

Or is the universe deterministic in nature? That means that every action that has occurred up to this point has its own predictable root cause, so it was all bound to happen. Therefore, our very behavior must also be deterministic.

And then there's compatibilism which argues that the concepts of free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive. Both free will and determinism can co-occur.

I like the explanation of Hume's Fork in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy:

"Either our actions are determined,
in which case we are not responsible for them,

Or they are the result of random events,
in which case we are not responsible for them."

We probably won't land on a definitive answer during our lifetime, but we can at least take solace in our own individual pathway. As Matt Ridley points out in his book Genome, there's at least some comfort in realizing that we are at the very least each able to express our own determinism and not somebody else's.

So while I think long and hard about how I make the choices I do, I will also remind myself to enjoy the cognitive and societal freedom (or perception of freedom) to make them.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What You Could Learn as a Monk

My best friend Aditya Prasad has been studying neuroscience and meditation for a very long time. This is a video he made summarizing his conclusions.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Death Weighs on Seattle

Seattle's been mourning over the tragic loss of our community members. It's difficult to deal with, and the grief has shaken the city. 

The only way I know how to deal with these things is with dialogue. And yes, you guessed it—this post is my platform.

First off, deep sympathies to the friends and families.


If we want to keep Seattle the safe, beautiful city we admire, we can't ignore violent undercurrents.

Questions come to mind: What do we know? What can we learn? And how do we prevent this? What can we do as a community to prevent meaningless hatred?

Crisis is the time to unite and reflect. It's hard when we have complex emotions to deal with, but it's also when it's most dire. It's our opportunity to uncover wisdom. 

As Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz told reporters about Cafe Racer, "In my almost 30 years in this department, I've never seen anything more horrifying and callous and cold. We as a police department, we as a city, we as a community really need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to never allow anything like this to happen again."

I don't have a solution, but I will say this: these events are showing us humanity's dark side. And it's my belief system that there's a ying to that yang.

To spread empathy.

What do I mean by empathy? Caring. As in actually caring.

Caring comes from within, it means relating to people–to one, a few and to all. It also might mean understanding that society's good is up to each individual. It could mean understanding that one's own wants can be transcended for a greater principle. 

And that one person can ultimately benefit all.

If we all can teach that to our children, and if that actually sunk in, would there still be violence over a material possessions? Or violence from fits of rage? Probably, but even the smallest snowflake could snowball.

Realism and optimisim can meet halfway. Let's honor of the victims and their families by passing along peace and kindess.