Recently, when traveling abroad to conduct research for a medical sociological study, I recognized the risks many journalists are willing to take in order to get a story and make information widely available. I went to Havana, Cuba to investigate how the country’s trade embargo has affected citizen’s access to medicines, which has inadvertently impacted the quality of healthcare the people of Cuba receive. I set out to interview doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and public health officials. I quickly realized people were hesitant to speak openly about health in their country, despite the fact that they have some of the best health outcomes of any industrialized nation, far surpassing that of the United States.
Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions with Help from Koret
As classes resume this semester, many of us hesitantly pick up our usual routines. Most may be unaware however, that January is healthy weight awareness month: a time to reflect on our holiday eating splurges and head outdoors while the sun is out in San Francisco.
In the United States, 69% of adults over 20 are overweight or obese, as stated on the World Health Organization’s website. While both are preventable, it is important to differentiate between obesity and being overweight. Although Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements do not distinguish fat from muscle, a person with the BMI of 25 or greater is considered overweight, while 30 or greater is obese.
Carrying excess weight increases risk for many preventable obesity related diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and certain cancers, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
While high-fat, high-sugar foods tend to be lower in cost they are also lower in nutrient quality. Nevertheless, a diet of instant noodles and energy drinks remains appealing to college students on a budget, despite the fact that they can contribute to excess weight gain.
A balanced diet and engaging in daily physical activity is key to achieving and maintaining physical fitness and lowering the risks associated with high weight or obesity, reports the NHLBI.
USF students are lucky to have a variety of local farmers markets at their disposal, namely the Inner Richmond’s Outdoor Market on Clement Street every Sunday and the Haight Farmer’s Market held Wednesday afternoons. On campus, students also share the benefit of having local and organic food choices in the cafeteria, in addition to a large gym.
All currently enrolled students and faculty have access to Koret Health and Recreation Center, which is open everyday except for university holidays. Koret offers a wide range of activities both in their facilities and out including a pool, cardio equipment, basketball courts, and free group fitness classes in yoga, spinning, Zumba dance, and more. To alleviate those sore muscles, the center also offers physical therapy and massages for a fee.
For the outdoorsy types, Koret recently released their schedule for this spring’s ventures which include Skiing and a night tour of Alcatraz.
Senior sociology major Kathryn Najarian teaches zumba, a Latin-inspired dance-fitness routine, at Koret twice a week. In response to how she maintains a healthy lifestyle, Najarian responded, “I teach zumba, which is always fun. My mom also got me a FitBit for Christmas and it counts your steps which is great because it’s totally motivating. I guess an active person is supposed to walk 10,000 steps per day, and my zumba class is 6,000 steps on average, which is cool to know!”
Physician Assistant at a Southern California Medical and Wellness Spa, Stacey James, 35, highlights the rewards of physical activity, “in addition to helping to control weight, it also reduces stress and increases your energy.” She also emphasizes the effects of feeling short-term versus long-term benefits, “most people don’t feel a reduction in their risk of heart disease, diabetes, or some cancers, which exercise helps combat, but they will immediately feel a difference in their mood.”
“A healthy lifestyle needs to be promoted at all levels,” encourages Laura Mealer, a graduate student in the Master’s in Public Health program. “[There needs to be] a collaboration between parents, schools, the medical community, and the food industry, to educate and support preventative health care,” she said.
My name is Andrea Hans. I am a senior sociology student. I am twenty-three years old and after a year and a half of battling illness, I received a bill yesterday for $68, 598. I dedicated the last six years of my life to working in healthcare when in 2012, a mass was discovered in my brain. Although benign, it requires constant medical follow-up and treatment with antiepileptic drugs. With insurance, the cost of my medication alone totals nearly $600 a month. For this reason, I fill the prescription overseas, where I can acquire a four-month supply for $55.
Medical bills have become the number-one reason for bankruptcy filings in the United States. A study published by the Journal of Health Affairs uncovered that 54.5% of personal bankruptcies were attributed to medical problems. While this might astound many, this is not surprising to me – my mother who suffers from two rare autoimmune disorders and nearly went into liver failure in 2008, filed for bankruptcy in 2011 when the hospital and doctor bills grew too large to ignore.
On Oct. 1, online exchanges that will allow uninsured Americans to easily compare and purchase insurance premiums take effect, as one of the final phases of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet, a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 40% of Americans are still unsure of what this reform means. And with all the campaigns to block and defund the ACA, many are unclear if the health reform law is still indeed going into effect. In fact, Senator Ted Cruz’s attempted twenty-two hour filibuster on Tuesday to defund health care reform was less than three hours away from defeating the longest filibuster in United States history, third to Senator Strom Thurmond’s (R- South Carolina) 1957 filibuster opposing the Civil Rights Act.
Simply put, the purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to expand coverage to those who were previously being denied by insurance companies. These patients were considered too sick to cover; it will also cover those unemployed and unable to afford private insurance options, and to those who did not previously meet Medicaid eligibility. However, for those of us who already have insurance and still struggle with the cost of care, it is clear health reform has only begun. We can eat right and exercise, but illness can strike at any age, and the endurance that one must have to overcome physical and emotional challenges in fighting to stay healthy should not be accompanied by undue financial stress.
As I began to lose my hair last year because of aggressive medical treatments, I knew I could not give up. I will keep fighting because I am a survivor, with or without $68, 598. Nevertheless, from the perspective of a future physician and a patient, no one should face the prospect of filing bankruptcy due to overwhelming medical debt. While not the end to a tremendous and complex social problem, the Affordable Care Act is a hopeful step in the right direction.