iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Alison Rose Levy

GET UPDATES FROM Alison Rose Levy
 

Urban Zen Connects the Dots on Personal Healthcare

Posted: 06/19/09 08:26 PM ET

What's the single most important service you can do to help our troubled economy recover?

Take care of your health!

With health care costs rising (nearing 20% of GDP), if you commit to service for health, we'll all get a double-duty payoff (benefiting both health and the buckling economy.)

Yet most of us don't know where to begin, because we haven't been taught how to connect the dots on health.

Usually, people ignore health until there's a problem. But now the time has come to transform health care as we know it. To do this, every single one of us has to become a health activist. Designer Donna Karan's whose foundation Urban Zen has taken the lead in transforming health care, was inspired in her activism by her late husband, businessman and artist, Stephan Weiss.

"He always spoke about connecting the dots.. stepping back and looking at the big picture... seeing how things are connected," Donna recalls.

As I pondered this, I saw that we do the exact opposite with health. Our medical model trains us to consider the tiniest molecule and isolate a single chemical reaction--but not to connect the dots as to how all of the molecules interact.

In medical care, we zero in on a symptom and hope to find a quick cure for it, but we don't connect the dots to look at compound effects, like how and when the sum total of multiples exposures to different environmental chemicals will interact in the body to trigger illness.

Love, feelings, intentions, beliefs, and thoughts influence our health status, but since we can't find them with a microscopic, we discount them. Yet these intangibles shape our life, experience, and all we hold dear.

Even on the internet, when we seek out health information, we want a quick tip we can use today. But a quick tip (like eating more organic food) won't do much good if larger forces (pressures from lobbyists, the food industry, or others) undermine the policies that help put these foods on our tables.

The bottom line is simply this: Personal health is inextricably interconnected with societal and environmental health. We need to connect the dots.

That's why to take care of health, we must act on two fronts at once: the personal and collective.

By all means, become proactive about your personal health and make the necessary lifestyle changes. You probably know what these are, and if you don't, get some good advice.


But it's a mistake to tend to your own garden while ignoring social and environmental policies, some of which further health--and some of which seriously undermine health. Every day, regulators determine public policies that affect all of us--yet few are aware or take action on these policies.

With an array of lobbyists aiming to influence governmental decision making, citizens have to learn to connect the dots, and stand up for access to health care, health care freedom, and a health care system and reimbursement system that are humane and caring.

That's why, if you want to serve both yourself and the greater public good, find a health cause that you care about and commit to taking regular action. Whether it's single payer health care (www.moveon.org) , environmental cleanups (www.ewg.org), health care freedom (www.citizens.org), autism (www.defeatautismnow.com), caring in health care (www.urbanzen.org), teaching kids to eat healthy (www.healthcorps.org) integrative medical care (http://www.imconsortium.org and www.bravewell.org), lowering cancer rates in children (www.lesscancer.org), maintaining organic food standards, (www.organicconsumers.org) or others, become a health activist. Once you connect the dots, you'll see that all of these profoundly influence health.

For more on health and activism, get the free Health Outlook at www.health-journalist.com

 
 
 

Follow Alison Rose Levy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AlisonRoseLevy