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Alison Rose Levy Headshot

Do You Have the Right to Choose Your Health Care?

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I'm all for lowering health care costs by taking more responsibility for my health. As a health journalist and coach, I'm a champion of supporting people to improve their diet, upgrade their exercise, and manage stress.

But a little question: if we're responsible, shouldn't we also have the freedom to choose our health care? And shouldn't we let the government know which of its policies don't support our health?

I am a walking, talking health research project, figuring out what works for me and guiding others to do the same. (For more, sign up for the Health Outlook at www.health-journalist.com) Organic plant-based diet--check! Regular weekly exercise (cardio, dance, yoga, strength building, relaxation)--check! However, as a Queen of Self-Care myself, I feel that we have to differentiate between:

• Self-care you and I can do
• Conventional and non-conventional health assessments and diagnostics to prevent illness that we need to hire others to do
• Conventional and non-conventional health treatments that treat both existing conditions and "soon coming" conditions
• Government and economic policies in key arenas that impact our health

For example, a recent study found that nano silver effective in treating hospital derived MRSA, Avian flu, and other infections no other treatments can control. Good news!

However, prompted by a so-called "citizens' group," the EPA now wants to outlaw that very silver, calling it a pesticide. Unfortunately, this policy change opens the door to its being outlawed for human use. Bad news!

Kills bugs? Yes. Poisonous to humans -- no! Like silver, any low-cost, effective treatment may have well-funded competitors who'd prefer we use their pricier, ineffective offerings. With lobbyists strategically operative even as "citizens' groups," my daily exercise program won't help me maintain access to a product that keeps me and my loved ones safe should we enter an infection-ridden hospital environment.

So I say: If we're taking responsibility for our health, shouldn't we also have the right to choose our health care?

Let's face it, one reason so many people "give up" on that diet or exercise program is that on some level they know that an array of forces stand between them and health. Such as:

• Managed care insurance providers and Medicaid providers positioned between you and your doctor to try to cut costs
• FDA regulators who determine which treatments and products are available for use. (Unfortunately, they base their policy decisions on costly research methods, originally developed to assure the safety of toxic chemicals - and they misapply that methodology to non-toxic treatments and foods.)
• CDC regulators who mandate interventions based on the greater public good without any examination of which individuals should be excluded from broad mandates based on genetics or pre-existing health conditions
• National Institute of Health policies that favor pharmaceutical-company funded research, and stymy research into integrative treatments
• Agricultural and environmental policies that regulate the quality of available foods, as well as air, water, and land quality, all of which impact health
• State regulations, restricting your access to preventive health tests or treatments
• The pharmaceutical and food industries, and their PR firms with their battery of messages purveying products. Reaching deep into your psyche to program ailments--an instance of the "nocebo" effect, the flip side of the "placebo effect," ads use the recently demonstrated power of belief and suggestion to condition health outcomes.
• Conventional medicine which all too often acts as a barrier to low risk treatments and tests, demonstrated successful by outcome based findings.

So when we talk about prevention, let's not forget that many factors impact health -- and we can't address them all one-by-one as individuals. We need collective action on public policy, on the environment, and on guarantors for health choice.

I'm delighted that the new government wants to promote wellness, and encourage our new leaders to look at all of these policies.

And as we citizens take responsibility -- as I feel we must -- then it makes sense to request what comes with responsibility:

• The freedom to choose our preferred kind of health care. This could be easily implemented via providing catastrophic coverage insurance, along with flexible health spending accounts.
• A broader vision of how all governmental policies impact health and create a favorable or unfavorable health environment for each of us.

We need to look at it all, and not just whether I'm doing my thirty minutes per day of cardio. Encourage the Obama administration to research integrative health treatments by writing in to preserve funding from misguided NIH cuts, here.

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