06 January 2010

Healthcare corner #1 - A student again

i get to audit the course my boss is teaching this semester.

she teaches the "Intro to Health Services Research and Policy" course in the community health and epidemiology department of dalhousie universitys medical school. its all about the canadian health care system. the goal is to give students an understanding of all parts of the system as well as to be able to identify/accurately discuss/critically think about the important hot-button issues related to the system. as you can imagine, this would be immensely useful for engaging an american in discussion about their health care debate/situation.

our class is pretty large (18 people. which is large here.) and most of the students are from the maritime provinces, with a few of them coming from ontario. i am the only american. i am seriously intrigued to see how the course and discussions pan out. so, i thought i might share some of the new things i learn and some new opinions i hear each week. nothing too lengthy, just little blurbs to stimulate your mental juices. not meant to insight political attacks or rage.

so today, as with all first days of class, most class time was spent pouring over the syllabus. then we had time for a very general health care system overview. to get us discussing, my boss showed a video (sponsored by patients united now) that was made a couple years ago in the u.s. that featured a canadian woman who came to the u.s. for treatment because, she says, her health care system failed her.

i had heard of the video/commercial but hadnt seen it, its quite short but enough to coax discussion from even the most shy of people. there are some important facts left out of her story (that she actually had a benign pituitary gland tumor, not life-threatening cancer. that she mortgaged her house to pay for the $100,000+ surgery at mayo clinic.) that would have been useful for accuracy, and there are also some gross, sweeping statements about canada that are inflammatorily false (that it denies citizens care. that the government says "patients arent worth it" as reasoning to deny coverage of certain drugs/treatments).

as you can imagine, the students had some opinions. and all seemed to want to be able to have the hard facts and indisputable evidence to use to put all the false information or insinuations in the ad to bed, for good. interestingly, several mentioned the 'general opinion' that "canadians have a more community focus. we want a system to work for everyone. we understand that means that those of us who are able to wait, do so, and leave space for more urgent cases to get taken care of. its something we will take advantage of when/if its our time. americans have a much more individualistic approach. they see things as 'its my right to get treated when i want and how i want. if i have the money, i should be able to get what i want now.'" (i am paraphrasing of course, but these are the condensed ideas i heard in class, and have heard from other discussions previously). of course this 'general opinion' is just that. with alberta being the wealthiest canadian province, i am told that many of those citizens have views more closely in line with the presumed 'american opinion.' but, there you have some of the tidbits from the first class period.

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