Monday, August 1, 2011

What Does Sustainable Healthcare Really Mean?

Sustainable healthcare. You'd think that with how much we Canadians like to go on about our 'free' healthcare that we have it all figured out. Unfortunately it's definitely far from the truth. Although I never have to worry about how much it will cost when I go to the hospital (for an emergency, to give birth... whatever), my healthcare definitely costs me money. And I'm not talking taxes.

Medications and pharmaceuticals that are often essential for treatment of diseases like cancer and diabetes (type I) aren't free under our medicare system. If we don't have an insurance plan with our job we have to pay ourselves... and our insurance doesn't cover everything. Last year my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly the drugs he needed to prolong his life are not covered under medicare. As a self employed fisherman, my uncle had no insurance and no means to cover thousands of dollars for medications.

Instead of being with his family and loved ones for longer, he passed away within months.

A few months ago, we had a special 'Coffee and Yoga' to chat about what Sustainable Healthcare means to us with the local representatives of Capital Health. It was very interesting and although didn't result in any real 'solutions', it truly was meant to begin the dialogue between a massive organizational beast (Capital Health) and the regular citizen shareholders.

The biggest message was that in order to have a sustainable healthcare system we need to take more preventative measures. The healthier our population the lower the cost on healthcare. The discussion had some nifty stats on disease, for instance 70% of cancers are preventable through lifestyle and diet. That's a whopper.

It seems foolish to invest only in a reactionary system as opposed to a preventative model.

It's difficult to see the end-picture and encourage government and shareholders to invest in programs that have negative effects: i.e. they work if people 'don't' get sick. It's difficult to measure- would that person have become a demand on the system if they didn't eat healthy?

 local sustainably harvested blue mussels at the Blue Mussel Café in PEI -YUM
 Locally caught haddock and local potatoes and veggies at Blue Mussel Café, best meal of the trip!

The trick is to make healthy eating, healthy physical lifestyle accessible to all. Lets be honest, healthy food (organic, sustainable, local) costs more than junk processed food. Eco-friendly products that are toxin and chemical free can be costly. Making your home sustainable can be costly (solar panels, geothermal heating, upcycled and sustainable building supplies).

Yoga classes are costly.

If we're going to be serious about a sustainable healthcare, making healthy food, chemical-light homes and clean air to breathe a priority is a nice place to start.

Many of these issues are larger than us to address. At the same time, we can all do small bits to help the whole. Calling your political representative and making your thoughts and views known. Start eating healthy and getting active yourself.

Give back to your yoga community and offer free, accessible (i.e. not during work-week hours) yoga classes.

What ideas do you have to make your health and healthcare system sustainable?

article copyright EcoYogini at


  1. Australia also has "free" healthcare, sort of. It used to be the case that most visits to the GP were 100% covered, now that's a rarity. And to be really covered (depending on what you can afford), you need private health insurance, too.

    The difference is that there's no employer link with having private insurance. That's something you pay for yourself.

    And you're so right - preventative health care is so expensive.

    With my recent thyroid autoimmune diagnosis, I'm discovering just how expensive it can be.

    I have a GP, a (soon-to-be) specialist integrative health doctor, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a kinesiologist and an osteopath. Plus yoga, of course. Oh, and supplements. Lots and lots of supplements.

    So right now I can't really afford a lot of organic food. I do try my best to eat well, and thank goodness for my neighbour who is helping me with a meal here or there.

    I know what you're saying about yoga classes being costly, but I understand it, too. Yoga teachers have to make a living in this expensive world!

    That said, I teach a low-cost class ($10 per session) and if I eventually become a full time yoga teacher, I'll always have at least one free and one low-cost class per week. Of course, unless someone wants to pay my rent though, I'd still need to charge enough for other classes to keep myself in clothes, food and a home.

    *sigh* no easy answers, eh? But you're right, we have to try!

  2. @svasti: i was wondering about australia- govt's appear similar.... weird that you have to pay for a GP visit. Although, here if we no show for an appt it's a 25$ 'fine'.

    yes i agree, yoga teachers need to make money- but you're right it's a delicate balance. :)

  3. I totally agree with you about the need to invest in a preventative, not reactive health care system. I am truly blessed, and through my extended health insurance (although I do pay for it through payroll deductions!), I can go to the naturopath and work on healing my body to prevent ill health. Having said that, the prescribed supplements cost a small fortune, and it comes out of my budget. However, if they were pharmaceuticals prescribed by an MD they would be free because of my insurance. Now that is one messed up system! I buy organic as much as possible, but sometimes it's just too expensive for a family of 5. 3 teenagers, 2 of them boys?! Yikes!

    Health care reform is definitely in order! If our government invested even a fraction of what is spent on reactionary health care (or armed forces, but that's another issue for another day!), I truly believe that we wouldn't have the mess we have now with our "free" health care system.

    Climbing down off my soapbox now...thank you for blogging about issues that really do impact us all.

  4. This is an issue close to my heart. My friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and she has no insurance. Her costs would be in the tens of thousands of dollars - which she doesn't have. And as such, she cannot afford treatment.

    I don't have insurance, either, nor do half of my friends. What is the choice for all these people? No treatment and death? It is wildly insane that we live in one of the richest places in the world and people die because they have no insurance.

  5. The mussels look INCREDIBLE! Thank you for the wonderful post! My family has been very fortunate in that we really don't go to the doctor....most ailments I have been able to cure at home. Thank you again!

  6. An interesting topic that comes up in the public health field (and buddhism)is end of life care, whatever age that may come. What exactly are we trying to do when some of the highest health care costs are to prolong life for a little while? Do we think we will avoid death? Do we think it will make losing people easier? I'm not saying we don't need medicine or doctors but I think it may be more helpful to invest in primary/preventive care and less on the expensive specialists. Sometimes I think that maybe all of this technology is not making our lives or our world any better. Some may argue that technology is what has gotten us into the current eco-mess we are in, caused in some part by the resultant overpopulation problem.

    I don't have any grand philosophical position on this, and I'm not heartless, but it is worth considering and exploring our ideas of life and death.

    And yes, it's hard to be a fulltime yoga teacher, I totally feel ya. The only yoga classes I teach these days are community classes but I need a "regular" job in order to do that.

  7. Very important subject, the sustainable and preventive health care and this is something that interests me greatly as a student of Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.
    As an European citizen, I'm lucky enough not to worry about bills or insurances. In Portugal where I am from and Spain where I've lived for many years, health care is 90% free, you only have to pay a very small fee, nothing to worry about. Well, it's not 5***** and not the most efficient and fastest healthcare, there can be waiting lists to visit a specialist, but it works out very well, or at least well enough.
    Unfortunately and like most of you said, there's not enough, if any interest in preventive health care. Behind this there are the lobbies of the pharmaceutical companies who don't want to loose billions by having an extraordinarily healthy population. This has even started a recent war against natural and traditional medicines, like herbalism, which became illegal according to a new European law (I'm still not updated with this law). A typical thing, is to see people taking pills to lower their cholesterol and then eating meals that consist of friend streak, with fried eggs and french fries! There's no education about nutrition and the connection between a healthy balanced lifestyle and disease. This is particularly frustrating to see in an acupuncture clinic, where a change in lifestyle is crucial for obtaining good results. People just refuse to change.
    Yes, yoga can be extremely expensive! I personally can´t afford to take classes in a studio at the moment, so I have to do it at home, by myself. Supplements are equally expensive and people are not aware of what's good and what's not, since supplements in a way became a fashion here in Europe. All in all i think we have to know how to live with less; less stress, less food (trust me, in our society there's more issues with eating too much than eating too little), a less sedentary lifestyle, and even less material things.


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