A Healthy Life Can Start Anywhere

This week I want to share three articles I came across in the past week. The first article is about lessons of resilience we can derive from a basketball team. The second article is about a study showcasing how much money in healthcare Americans could save by being prescribed fruits and vegetables. The last article is about different ways to overcome the opioid epidemic and what Blue Cross Blue Shield is doing to help. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

‘A little bit different this time’: Behind the scenes of Virginia’s euphoric, emotional national title celebration

The NCAA basketball championship game this year was won by the University of Virginia after losing in a humiliating manner just one year ago. During the very challenging ensuing twelve months they were resilient and worked hard to take home the trophy in 2019. This article dives into their story and includes comments from their resilient, hard working players.

Mark’s Thoughts:
I know it’s just a game. But we can learn from games and those that play them. Especially, in this case, a story of resilience. From requiring a police escort one year ago because of death threats (an overall #1 seed losing to a #16 seed for the very first time angers gamblers) to a police escort while holding the national championship trophy. To indefatigable leadership from a coach and staff and college students who never shied away from accepting what had happened (they didn’t pretend it didn’t happen) but used it as fuel for a 12-month journey of redemption. Yes, it’s just a game. But this is a lesson of overcoming that all of us can heed. Defeat today can lead to victory tomorrow. Conversely, victory today can lead to defeat tomorrow. It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you, that matters.

“Prescribing” fruits and veggies would save $100 billion in medical costs

A new study recently found that “prescribing” healthy foods could save more than $100 billion in healthcare costs. Tufts University found that consuming more fruits and vegetables overall could help prevent millions of cases of chronic health issues. With 86 percent of annual healthcare costs in the US driven by chronic disease and 70 percent of chronic diseases in the US being lifestyle driven, there is a lot of money to be saved (and, obviously, better health) by making better nutritional choices. This study followed adults ages 35-80 enrolled in Medicare/Medicaid. It examined the outcomes when these programs covered 30 percent of fruits and vegetables vs covering fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, plant oils and other health foods.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Interesting point…but, you don’t need a “prescription” from a doctor for “fruits and veggies” to make a choice to eat more nutritiously. That comes one meal/snack at a time. Sometimes we want complicated answers to complicated questions (like how to manage chronic pain). Sometimes the best answer is not very complicated. “The (speculative study) results showed that with such subsidies (of healthy foods), subjects rely less on healthcare. The first scenario would prevent 1.93 million cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks) and 350,000 deaths, as well as cut healthcare costs by $40 billion. The expanded second scenario would prevent 3.28 million cardiovascular events, 620,000 deaths, and 120,000 cases of diabetes–and save the U.S. system a whopping $100 billion.” My interest in this article was not about the subsidies (my personal preference is less government, not more) but about the implications that eating healthily could have on chronic diseases. We should be self-motivated to eat properly. After all, we have the most to gain—and to lose. This grants insight into the impact that making better choices can have on those with chronic diseases/conditions. If you want a good resource for further reading, visit Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Innovations in opioid addiction prevention and treatment show promise

Opioid addiction is a major problem all across the United States. Blue Cross Blue Shield is teaming up with community partners to help fight this epidemic. This article focuses on just a few of those initiatives. As a society we need to stop stigmatizing addiction, need new methods for addiction recovery and educating the medical community about long-term risks and at-risk populations.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Lots of great initiatives by Blue Cross Blue Shield across the country to #CleanUpTheMess of the opioid epidemic:

  • The “Someone You Know” campaign in southeast Pennsylvania region is attempting to change the perception that addiction is a moral failing, that you have to deal with it all by yourself, and that recovery isn’t possible.
  • In Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine they have an in-home multi-disciplinary “Aware Recovery Care program” that 60 percent (so it’s more than a coin flip) of 728 members (statistically significant) have completed.
  • The Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (OPEN) is working to “establish prescribing recommendations for 25 common surgical procedures” (so, so, so important to get the initial number of pills right based on science and not “this is how we’ve always done it”).

It will take imagination to fix our problems and these are examples of local creativity. This verifies that one size does not fit all—in a geography, for a payer and definitely in the life of an individual.

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-april-15-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.

Until next week,