“Health” from the Greek root Kailo means “whole, uninjured, of good omen.” From the Old English Haelan, “to make whole, to make sound and well.” In contemporary times, the World Health Organization offered this definition: “complete mental, physical and social well-being.”
Whether we look to ancient or contemporary definitions, it is clear that the word “health” encompasses and encourages a much broader state of well-being than does our focus on “healthcare.” Indeed, any genuine consideration of health goes significantly beyond the narrow boundaries and hackneyed arguments that continue to rage in America about what kind of healthcare system we should have. And, in my opinion, it is the narrowness of this argument that prevents us from accomplishing what every other major country in the industrial world did intelligently, maturely and humanely a long time ago. Their efforts to make quality health/life care available to their citizens took precedence over our far more regressive need to make the physical, mental and emotional health of our people someone’s path to profit.
While this continues to be a subject in need of exploration, with the election of Donald Trump and his nomination of a group of reactionary individuals with questionable competence to lead federal departments and agencies, and with all the huffing, puffing and threatening to blow the house down—particularly when it comes to healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by the new Republican-controlled Congress—moving the conversation from healthcare to health has now taken on greater importance and urgency.
When we consider a third factor, that in Santa Fe approximately 62 percent of our population is already 50 years of age or older, that our state will soon be among the first in the country to have 50 percent of its population 50 years of age or older, that New Mexico will also soon rank third or fourth in the nation in the percentage of our population 65 years of age or older, and that the majority of these citizens live in rural areas and subsist on average incomes of $14,000 or less a year, the subject takes on a criticality that is impossible to deny.
So let’s turn our attention to exploring a few of the ways we can change the conversation from healthcare to health—from a conversation primarily about an economic process through which we attempt to treat illness and disease, to a much deeper and more meaningful dialogue about how we encourage and support a true, whole-systems health strategy. Let us also look at a few of the things each of us can do to contribute to bringing greater sanity, sustainability and maturity to the task of creating true physical, emotional, mental and social well-being for everyone in this nation and for our nation as a whole.
1. First and foremost, we would be wise to follow the guidance of this old adage, “The beginning of wisdom is a firm grip on the obvious.” In this case, what is obvious is that the inmates have gotten loose and are now running the Washington asylum without any real understanding of the consequences of the absurd and ineffective strategies they propose. And so, we have to start exercising our full rights and responsibilities as citizens and do whatever is necessary to ensure that America joins the rest of the industrial world in putting in place a healthcare system that actually serves the greater good of the greatest number instead of the economic advantage of the few—in short, that we focus on health rather than healthcare.
2. Second, whenever the term “healthcare” comes up, we would be wise to expand the definition in our minds and conversations to include all of the factors that either retard or contribute to our social, environmental, cultural, educational, economic and physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. For each and every one of these factors must be addressed—concurrently and not separately and consecutively—if we want to bring about true health for each of us, our society and for our planet.
3. Third, whenever we reflect on the term “health,” we would be wise to ask ourselves what we can do in each moment, independent of the so-called healthcare system and various providers, practitioners and modalities found within it—independent of government regulations and legislation, to improve our social, environmental, cultural, educational, economic, physical, mental and emotional health.
In short, we can exercise our “unalienable rights endowed by our Creator” in every thought, word and action. We can ensure that we have the highest quality foods to eat, the purest and most available water to drink and cleanest air to breathe. What can exercise The Power of One, which means greater consciousness and discernment in regard to every product and service we purchase, and every action that is necessary to reduce manmade causes of climate change. We can do forms of exercise that are right for our bodies and make each and every interaction we have with all other life-forms—human or animal—constructive, positive and uplifting. Yes, we can do all of this and more to take greater responsibility for ourselves and our own health and therefore for the health and well-being of the world we live in. Because in case you haven’t noticed, if we wait for our so-called leaders to create a sane and sustainable world, we’ll wait a very long time.
So whenever someone tries to drag you into a bogus and toxic conversation about our healthcare system, remind them that it is health—a whole systems model—that really needs to be discussed. And no matter what the inmates in Washington or the equally mad media and their flawed polls try to tell us, no matter what political preference we cling so tenaciously to—left, center or right—let us remember that every man, women or child wants the same thing. Let us remember, as the poet Mark Nepo reminds us, “What we reach for may be different, but what makes us reach is the same.”
Yes, all of us want the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” for ourselves, and, fortunately, a growing majority of us also want these things for each other. All of us long for the ability to lead lives of genuine meaning and purpose, to contribute our gifts to the time in which we live and to have the opportunity to manifest the dreams we came here to manifest. With the exception of those reactionary inmates and those on the fringe of consciousness who support them, the majority of us long for a society dedicated to the common good, one in which there is ample food, clothing, shelter and equal opportunity for all. The majority of us desire a habitat that is thriving and sustainable in which we can learn to be better at being human. And along the way, when we require support and assistance with our physical, mental and emotional well-being, all of us want to have access to the kind and quality of care we need without having to sacrifice our financial solvency or become indentured servants to receive it, especially when this kind of servitude results from a system built on the premise that a relative few have the right to take far more than their fair share from the process.
Sounds so simple and obvious, doesn’t it? But, of course, it’s not! And frankly, this state of conscious well-being will never become our reality until we stop participating in this fraudulent, self-defeating argument about the economics of a healthcare system and instead begin the long-overdue and intelligent dialogue about what we need to do to create true health. It is a dialogue that will bring each of us, our nation and our world into a time of greater consciousness, sanity and sustainability, and it will allow us to direct our attention, energy and creativity to actually fulfilling the promise articulated in our founding documents so that we can start living quality lives rather than only wishing and hoping for them.
George Cappannelli is an award-winning author, organizational consultant, expert on societal, organizational and individual change. He is co-founder of AgeNation and Empower New Mexico. You can join Cappannelli and Alan Webber for The Santa Fe Dialogues on the Future. To receive a pdf of The Power Of One, email Info@agenaton.com. 602.339.3777, firstname.lastname@example.org