If you haven’t already experienced frustrations with the healthcare system, you will! For all the innovation, research, and high-tech options available, we still face major challenges in making those technologies affordable and available. Yes, our healthcare system needs work.

Major problems exist in at least three areas:

First, healthcare costs too much. The costs keep increasing faster than incomes can keep up. Healthcare costs as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product), government spending, and personal or business income show no signs of slowing down. Costs are a frequent reason people don’t use medications as directed or get medical care they desire or need.

Second, healthcare needs are increasing. For all our spending, life expectancy or quality of life is not going up very much. Chronic illnesses involving such lifestyle factors as tobacco and other substance use, obesity, and stress affect huge percentages of our population at younger and younger ages. And as the senior population increases rapidly their healthcare needs also increase.

Third, healthcare availability is decreasing. The individual doctor-patient relationship is becoming comparatively non-existent. “Mid-level providers” are assuming an ever-greater role in healthcare. And the number of healthcare personnel is not increasing nearly fast enough to keep up with the needs of a sicker and older population.

That’s the bad news in a nutshell. The good news is that there IS much you can do about your own health for today and for the future. Two things you MUST do, starting today:

First, take responsibility for your own health. No government, doctor, preacher, or anyone else can do it for you! Learn to pay attention to your body, your mind, and your spirit. Where you need to make changes, do so. If you need some help to change, take responsibility for finding and using the help that IS available. Take responsibility for your lifestyle including nutrition, substance use, physical activity, stress management, rest, mental attitude, and spiritual growth. It may seem like a lot, but you can do it. The choices you make today WILL make a difference tomorrow. Don’t assume you will escape the results of your unhealthy behaviors, or that a magic fix will appear when you want it to.

And lastly, stay involved. Ask your elected officials what their position is on healthcare issues, and demand they answer. Let your voice be heard. Get your family involved in living healthy and becoming informed. Get your workplace, your church, your neighborhood talking about and being involved in healthy living and supporting each other.

The answer is not more tax dollars making hugely expensive medications more available. The answer is not legislating lifestyle behaviors or mandating universal “insurance.” The answer is you and I, today and every day, taking responsibility for our own health. Our healthcare system has its place, and we all need to work to make it better. But you and I can live well regardless.

What frustrations with the healthcare system have you experienced? How are you taking responsibility for your own health? What can you do to stay healthy now and in the future? I’d love to hear from you!