[Note: The following post is a short piece of writing that I wrote about the concept of Health Care For All, looking at some of the obstacles and steps that can be taken to help out with improving health care for people.]
In looking at my own role and part in promoting health care for all, I see that there are some major niches that have so far been largely unexplored by theorists and practitioners in the field. Each of these unexplored niches are interrelated with my own life and institutional commitments and each provides an opportunity to increase public health in terms of its effectiveness as well as its political acceptance in the United States and other countries. In short, in order to help achieve global health care for all, it will be necessary to counteract existing political biases, achieve a larger degree of commitment to that goal by showing the public health implications of the Bible as part of a Christian church and the relationship between public health and private virtue, and demonstrating my own Christian virtue through the treatment of others with respect, which has been rare from the advocates of health care for all in the contemporary political discourse.
The first action I would take as an individual and as a member of the United Church of God to help in the aims of health care for all would be to write and speak about the implications of the Bible body of law in matters of public health. For example, the importance of the role of the priests in public health in the diagnosis of contagious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases or toxic mold (see Leviticus 13 through 15) was related to the role of the priests in protecting public virtue as a whole. In the Bible, virtue and health are closely connected, whether through diet (including limitations of which foods to eat as well as commands on food preparation), sanitation (requirements of separating sewage and burial of bodies from residential areas to avoid contagion), quarantine of infected populations or through personal behavior (including sexual behavior in the forbidding incest and homosexuality). Through these means the laws of the Bible seek to protect and ensure the public health of a nation through the defense of virtuous conduct, a connection that has been largely ignored in public health matters thus far.
The second action I would take would follow from the first. By expounding on the public health implications of scripture, I would seek to present public health efforts with a legitimacy that they now lack with conservative elements in the United States and elsewhere around the world. By showing the strong link between traditional and conservative aspects of society with the importance of public health on a societal scale, one can remove the taint of communism and left-wing politics that is associated with efforts to achieve health care for all. This would present a greater ideological balance to the general approach of public health advocates than now exists and would also provide a greater link between religious clergy whose knowledge of public health laws in the Bible can then be transmitted into a greater education effort of ordinary people on the relationship between morality and health, in such ways as can reduce the dependence on government coercion for increases in public health, increase legitimacy by avoiding political bias, and provide a broader base of support for public health initiatives that will provide greater health care for all. This could be done without stooping to the ad hominem attacks made by Arole and Arole in Lecture 9 at 11:20, where there was a desire to seek the “liberty to shed old customs and traditions that impede health and development” rather than an interest in harnessing the power and popularity of those traditions which benefited both health and development as well as the political viability of efforts to achieve health care for all.
The third action I would take would correspond with the previous two. One of my own personal frustrations with the discourse on health care for all is the dismissive and disrespectful tone of much of the discourse concerning those who for various reasons simply do not trust government initiatives and whose political worldview is different from that of the largely left-wing theorists in the field. An example of this unacceptable tone can be found in Robert H. LeBow’s book Health Care Meltdown: Confronting The Myths And Fixing Our Failing System. In this book LeBow calls health insurance brokers, one of the important players in providing choices and options for people with regards to health care as “parasitic middlemen” (on page 22) and refers to the medical industry as a whole as a “medical industrial complex” on page 245. This sort of language is incompatible with efforts to increase the popularity and the legitimacy of efforts to improve public health care for all and rather lead to angry recriminations and disputes that harm efforts to improve health because of vicious and immoral political partisanship. In order to help the efforts of improving health care, I would both promote and practice a more godly and a more loving tone in my own discourse and conduct in order to help promote greater harmony, similar to Taylor’s defense of traditional medical practitioners in his own video, which was done for the purpose of achieving greater buy-in for efforts at improving public health, an effort that remains necessary.
There are, however, numerous obstacles to these proposed actions. Most of these obstacles exist in the field of public health and in the behavior and language of those who seek to promote health care for all but do so in ways that hinder their avowed aims. One of these obstacles is the overall bias against conservative or traditional elements within societies. We have already seen this bias in the language of Arole and Arole in Lecture 9 above. This is not an isolated example, though. For example, in Lecture 11, at about 11:00, the dramatic increase in public health in Bangladesh is credited to the discrediting of the traditional and conservative elements of Bangladeshi society in the aftermath of its war of independence against Pakistan, a major example of the hostility of many supporters of health care for all against any sort of conservative and traditional element of society. Given the fact that traditional elements of society (like the Bible) have major and beneficial applications for public health means that this hostility must be overcome if we are to achieve major and lasting improvements in public health around the world.
A second and related obstacle to efforts at improving public health through reducing political bias is an apparent gender bias when it comes to efforts to increase public health around the world. For example the use of community health workers has tended to mostly involve women at the near total exclusion of men. In other discussions of public health care for all, particularly in Africa, men are blamed for laziness and alcoholism while women are depended on to learn about health, to go to houses in the neighborhood, and to help instruct others on health techniques. This gender bias has helped to hinder the support of men for public health efforts. Again, this bias appears to be related to the larger political bias of many advocates of health care for all, but it does not serve the best interests of achieving those aims, since it seeks to divide societies against each other rather than serve the interests and benefit of all.
A third obstacle that is easy to see is that the coarse and hostile discourse of public health care advocates has become so common and so ingrained so as not to even be noticed. For example, early lectures denied that there was any sort of connection between health care for all and any sort of left-wing political agenda, but later videos basically admitted the seminal role of Communism and related left-wing ideologies in providing the impetus for such efforts in places like China, Bolivia, and Bangladesh. The biggest obstacle to improving the nature of discourse is to recognize that there is a problem in that discourse, to recognize the need to appeal to others rather than demonize their worldview as being inhumane and uninterested in the well-being of others. Until we learn to treat others like human beings whose beliefs and worldviews are worthy of respect, we cannot meaningfully persuade them or even engage with them as to areas of common interest, like the well-being of society as a whole.
As might be imagined, I am under no illusions that the actions I would undertake to improve health care for all are easy, but they are achievable if those who claim to advocate health care for all care more about health are than they do about ideological politics. This is by no means certain or straightforward, but it is at least possible that people who promote health care for all actually care more about health care than they do about political advantage or their opposition to conservative and traditional elements, and if that is the case then the defense of public health through an appeal to the Bible, as well as the encouragement of virtue in the general population, the avoidance of political bias in seeking such an important aim is helping societies be healthier, and avoiding a discourse that demonizes opponents but rather respects them and their humanity can help the aims of health care for all and help it be a force for good, rather than being a force for evil and division as it often is in societies, as is exhibited by the present debate over health care in the United States, for example.