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Responsible Health Behavior Should Be a Part of Our Societal Structure, Not a Domain of the Health Care System

August 9, 2012

By Brian L. Grant, MD

This  interview and article, “Health Care’s New Maverick,” with Dr. Ralph de la Torre, CEO of Steward Health Care System, is interesting. Clearly a talented and smart man with a mission, his beliefs may represent some thinking that is far more “in the box” than innovative. A fundamental flaw is that he believes that issues like health behavior and “wellness” ought to be part of a health care system rather than part of our societal structure. We have seen that once the health care system embraces an issue, individuals take a passive role as patients needing care by others, rather than engaging in conduct from birth that reduces or prevents chronic lifestyle illnesses that severely impact individual morbidity and society.

Seriously, is good nutrition and food intake a matter for doctors to dictate and treat than for individuals armed with knowledge and government and social policies that align with the knowledge? Is tobacco use something that could be better curbed by societal and political decisions rather than smoking cessation programs? If prevention, as he rightly highlights as necessary, is effectively achieved, his company’s prospects, along with all others in the health care system, is diminished. His interest as a CEO is at least in part, driving the profits of his company. Profits in health care can be made by doing good, as well as by doing more of what is less than impactful.

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