The Faults in Our Healthcare System: Why Hemp for Healthcare Aspires to Model the Southcentral Foundation of Alaska
At Hemp for Healthcare, our mission is to build an economic and social infrastructure around industrial hemp in Alaska. With this infrastructure, the ultimate goal is to create a Healthcare Fund for all Alaskan residents from the proceeds from hemp products and generated tax revenue. It is our belief that the current healthcare system in our country is extremely flawed. It functions on inefficient processes and severely lacks adequate mental, emotional, and spiritual care.
Humans are more than just a body. We are also minds and souls that have complex thoughts and feelings. All this contributes to our overall health, as a healthy mind and spirit are precursors to a healthy body. Our minds are our most valuable tools. They dictate how we treat ourselves and, consequently, others.
The Connections Between Mind and Body Are Scientifically Confirmed.
A study review from the American Journal of Psychology called "Neurological Evidence of a Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness and Pain Control" examined the role of mindfulness in patients with chronic pain. Instead of using the most common approach to chronic pain – medications, with the goal to downside the effects with the lowest amount of toxicity – Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, uses mindfulness by telling patients with chronic pain and other conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and eating disorders, to confront the pain with openness, acceptance, and without judgment rather than rejecting or avoiding it.
The study focused on patients with chronic pain who took part in the mindfulness program that involved weekly meditations with standardized guidelines. Practices included meditation, body awareness, and yoga. The results were psychological and suggested that mindfulness has a role in the modulation of brain connections that control pain sensations. Furthermore, the mindfulness principle of being open to the pain experience instead of avoiding it reduces anxiety, which in itself causes an increase in pain.
In 2017, Steven Ross Johnson of Modern Healthcare Magazine found that a failure to treat behavioral conditions was the most significant contributor to chronic diseases. In 2017, 190 million Americans had at least one chronic disease, while 30 million had three or more. The CDC estimates that a fourth of Americans experience a behavioral disorder in any given year. At the same time, 70% of patients have medical comorbidity – the presence of two diseases or conditions simultaneously.
This comorbidity causes an increase in healthcare costs because it is significantly more expensive to treat chronic illness' with an underlying behavioral condition. Given that this afflicts over half of our population, it consequently shows how fractured our healthcare system is.
The Flaws in Modern Healthcare
Take a look at the image below. It is a representation of how our healthcare system operates. Take notice of all the unnecessary steps that get in the way of providing people with quality care.
How the American Healthcare System Operates. Image courtesy of the Southcentral Foundation of Alaska
The healthcare providers are not to blame for this system, though many are influenced by it. They are the most critical and essential piece of the puzzle. They deserve praise and recognition, especially now as they're risking their health for ours in the fight against COVID-19.
Compare this image with this next one that shows national spending for healthcare from 2018.
The thin slices represent how much the people who provide care, like doctors, dentists, and nurses earn in a year. The large, red portion represents all other spending and is 73% of three trillion dollar expenditure. Where is all of that money going? In short, medicare, medicaid, private insurance, hospital expenditures, prescription drug spending, federal government spending, tariffs, subsidies, insurance providers, research and development, administration costs, new building construction – anything and everything other than the healthcare providers.
These images serve to show our healthcare system is a corporate business whose commodity is illnesses and whose goal is profit. There is no genuine regard for the human condition or quality of life. There is no intent to heal or facilitate patient independence from the system. Healthcare is profit-driven, not patient-driven. The system forces doctors to practice medicine based on what the patient's insurance can pay for, not what they need.
Our goal is to break the bondage with insurance so people can have access to the care they need and not be constrained and marginalized by their insurance plan.
Furthermore, the lack of seamless integration due to systematic faults makes it difficult for many people to get adequate help, especially for mental health services. Existing stigmas around mental health also prevent many people from seeking treatment. They then develop physical symptoms, incurring more costs. Their insurance may not cover it, leaving them to decide between health, food, rent, gas, childcare, or bills, and the cycle continues. It is this sort of systematic fault that contributes to addiction, homelessness, suicide, and crime.
Our mission is to facilitate a change in mindset and expose the system for what it truly is. In doing so, we believe people will become willing to adapt to new alternatives by showing them possibilities of hope, compassion, and change.
A Model for Hope
For us Alaskans, we don't need to look past our home state to find such an alternative. The Southcentral Foundation is a nonprofit healthcare system for Alaska Natives that operates on a "customer-owned" model. They emphasize patient-customer relationships and mental, emotional, and cultural wellness. In 2011, they received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and again in 2017. The award recognizes the country's most innovative organizations.
In three decades, their operating budget grew from 3 million to 210 million, due to a change of ownership in the 1990s. Alaska Natives used to receive healthcare as beneficiaries from the Indian Health Services Hospital, controlled in Washington, D.C. The result was impersonal care with 'bleak health statistics.' Natives advocated for a voice in the program, leading Congress to pass a federal law that allowed the tribes to own and control their healthcare. The Southcentral Foundation now operates on the "customer-owned" model where customers comprise the governing board and set the direction backed by data analysis towards customer satisfaction. Relationships serve as the backbone for the foundation. Research shows that relationship-based partnerships influence healthier outcomes because the doctors are familiar with their customer's living conditions, history, family dynamics, and preferences.
The Southcentral model focuses on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being that encompasses behavioral health, dental health, ob-gyn services, and an elder program. Telemedicine is integrated and utilized into their platform to connect with rural villages, which, after experiencing COVID-19, is an attractive solution for the future of healthcare.
Below is the system for Southcentral Foundation. As you can see, it is much simpler than the average model, and functions within itself, minimizing work and confusion for the patients.
Restructuring our healthcare system won't happen overnight. It will take time, dedication, and group effort. We aspire to mimic the Southcentral Foundation model to create a similar healthcare system available for all Alaskan residents, with funds generated from industrial hemp proceeds. The first step is building a sustainable, industrial hemp infrastructure in Alaska that can support such a model.
We ask you to be a part of this vital mission. You can begin simply by buying hemp on the Hemp for Healthcare website to help fund advocacy. You can vote in favor of hemp-friendly legislation. You can also grow and invest in hemp.
Together, we can Grow Alaska with Hemp and heal our people and our state. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to donate or get involved.