03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Engaging With Health Care: How A 'Going Healthy' Movement Can Save America

Dr. Ralph Snyderman, former president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, proposed the idea of a "going healthy" social movement in his article "Making Sense of Health Care Reform". He argued that if we made it easier for individuals to engage in healthy activism and behaviors, we could revolutionize the health and well-being of America. Drawing parallels with the recent and ongoing "going green" movement, Snyderman suggested that America could benefit by recognizing the value of health as "a resource and shared responsibility,' much like the environment.

After having studied about the benefits and potential risks of prospective health care for the past two years of my undergraduate college career, I would like to state my support for such a provocative and plausible movement in America. Prospective Health Care, an integrative approach to health enhancement and disease prevention, is built upon the premise that we should use our emerging medical resources to predict and prevent diseases, and personalize treatments to encourage patient empowerment. Prospective Health Care understands that the existing health care system is reactive -- it responds to immediate health needs and does not encourage preventive medicine. Such a system is costly and does not encourage an optimal state of health in America. Patients visit a doctor only after they become sick; and while America's treatment capabilities are unprecedented and provide miracle-level treatments, it does not recognize that there are simple ways we can protect and improve our health before it becomes a problem.

A "going healthy" movement would synergize an individual's relationship with the health care system and change the general attitude towards personal health. Individuals would be empowered to take control of their health, instead of purely delegating health care issues to constituents like providers, insurance companies, and governments; rather, we would work with our health care providers and physicians to create personalized ways to maintain our health. Such a rational health framework would foster collaboration and cooperation between major constituents of the health care system and beyond. Such targeted health care approaches will be efficient and effective approaches to medicine, as individuals will receive just the care they need.

Students at Duke University have already taken proactive steps to encourage a going healthy, Prospective Health Care based initiative. We have encouraged personal engagement with health behavior on campus. Our 'Prospective Health Challenge' initiative rewards students and employees with tangible prizes for taking control of their health and making active healthy decisions. Other Duke student groups hold 5K challenges, awareness days, and other events to promote positive health behaviors.

But, even outside of a college setting, where grassroots movements often plant themselves, the general population of America can and must take certain simple steps to preserve control of their health. Instead of a sustained frustration with the health system's loopholes and costs, we Americans should realize that our interactions with the health care system are only one part of our health maintenance.

Most Americans agree that the health care system is faulty; but we cannot continue to blame our ailments and diseases on the system, which ultimately does respond to our reactive health care needs. Rather, we must personally engage with health needs and understand that we can prevent issues like obesity that overwhelmingly affect the nation. We cannot be afraid to admit that health maintenance requires an active response and willingness to participate in the health system.

The going green movement is proof that a social movement can produce large-scale reform on a political, social, and economic level. However, it initially took a conscious effort on the parts of individuals, as well as other constituents, to recognize that there would be benefits to taking active steps to preserve the environment. A going healthy movement is likely the next social movement for America; we see the signs of prevailing health care, discuss the faults with the current system, and recognize the growing issue of health care in America. We Americans know that we can fight for what we believe in.

A going healthy movement just makes sense, and is one of the best ways we can concurrently work with Washington to preserve and improve health in America. Our nation was built upon the foundation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Key to maintaining our ideals is the preservation of a healthy life. Our simple preventive measures can have a significant impact on the preservation of our health. A going healthy movement is an effective way to encourage all Americans to make sense of health uncertainties.