The Looking Glass

The Looking Glass

The Department of Psychology


and The Need for Better Preventative Health Care in America

Susana Iwase-Herman

Irecently read Hillary Rodham Clinton's book, It Takes A Village, and was impressed and enlightened by her insight, clarity, and motivation to write a book that was simple and to the point. What she endorses, I believe, is what anyone would, given the facts. Every idea and call for justice that Mrs. Clinton expresses is laced with genuine care and love for humanity as well as concern for future generations. What I especially liked about her book was her emphasis on how our government must put more effort into preventative measures in health care.

It is clear that our health care system needs reform. It is an epidemic that so many people in this country are without health insurance and it is shameful that hospitals must charge as much as they do. This fact was witnessed first-hand by my brother who, without insurance or eligibility for Medicare, was charged $17,000.00 for a 24-hour stay at Cedar-Sinai Hospital's ICU last June. The fact that he'll have to pay this bill on a monthly basis, with interest, for at least the next 15 years of his life is by anyone's standards, outrageous.

Equally horrifying is the fact that for many pregnant women in America, as Mrs. Clinton sights, prenatal care is not accessible or affordable. Many employers do not or cannot offer insurance and many families do not make enough money to buy it on their own. Worse, many pregnant women are not even aware that they should be seeking prenatal care. Prenatal care is a crucial step in insuring good health in any child. Going without it can leave babies vulnerable to great health risks that would mean higher costs in the long run for all of us.

Mrs. Clinton uses the term "village" to symbolize a close-knit community, big or small, that can be counted on for support in times of need and act as a foundation of values for families and individuals that strive to be functional in American society. She encourages the formation of villages in every neighborhood, emphasizing that the well-being of our children is everyone's responsibility, not just that of each individual family.

"The village can do much to give parents the time they need to establish their children's well-being in the first weeks and months of life. The Family and Medical Leave Act, the first bill that President Clinton signed into law on February 5, 1993, enables people who work at companies with fifty employees or more to take up to twelve weeks' leave in order to care for a new child, a sick family member, or their own serious health condition, without losing their health benefits or their jobs. Although the leave is unpaid, and employees at smaller firms are not covered at all, this is a major step toward a national commitment to allowing good workers to be good family members - not only after the birth or adoption of a child but when a child, parent, or spouse is in need," writes Mrs. Clinton.

What astounds me is the fact that it took a democratic president in the 90's to come up with this type of legislation, albeit still lacking, that is clearly humane, just, and crucial for the well-being of families and children.

Mrs. Clinton goes on to express her admiration for the way the Parent Education Program in Columbus, Ohio treats divorce as a public health issue, "because it constitutes a major life stress for 40 percent of American children and can put many of these children at risk for long-lasting difficulties that can derail their development."

Since 23 states have already established voluntary child custody mediation programs, and 4 more require mediation through statewide programs, there are signs of hope. The U.S. government still has, however, a ways to go as a developed nation in the global community. Many European and Asian countries are far more advanced with regard to preventative health care and health care in general. For a country that so quickly offers "humanitarian aid" to foreign nations, our health care seems to be looking more and more like a privilege whereas in many other countries, it is clearly treated as a right.

In Japan, for example, there is a law that applies to all working women who become pregnant and choose to have a child. Women may take up to one year of leave without fear of losing their jobs. They will receive twenty percent of their salary during this time and an additional five percent after returning to work for six months. The government health insurance fully covers all health care expenses for that year and pension contributions are also pardoned.

The United Kingdom offers socialized medicine in health care to their citizens where doctor visits, emergency care, and hospital stays are fully covered. Dental care costs are very reasonable (for example, $20.00 for a filling), and the people benefit from a variety of prevention-oriented programs and prenatal care.

If the U.S. had similar health care legislation, we'd have far fewer cases of mental and physical diseases. If we could simply invest more in the prevention of diseases over potential cures, health care could be made affordable and accessible by all our people. When we place our efforts in using preventative care on our children, we are taking steps to provide a safer, less costly environment as well as a healthy future for them.

The village can work in harmony with our government and non-profit organizations, associations, and civic groups in order to guarantee care for our children. Ultimately, we all stand to gain considerably when we choose to operate cooperatively. It takes a village to spark the changes necessary in our country's health care system. In her book, Hillary Rodham Clinton does a beautiful job of making this point.



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