In last weeks Microdose for the Sole we explored the concept of disease care and the problems associated with a system that financially incentivizes the treatment of symptoms. This week we explore the concept of Health care - an alternative path that helps people resolve the root cause of their issues.
I believe Health care is fundamentally different from disease care and until we make that difference clear and change our language, we're doomed to continue labeling disease care as healthcare.
If we acknowledge that disease care is about treating symptoms of disease and health care is about helping people take better care of themselves, we can begin having an honest conversation about the fact that we don't have a health care system and should probably work on creating one.
I think the best way to delineate between disease care and Health care is through an example that illustrates the different paths that an individual can take within the context of foot health.
Maria is a 57 year old woman who works as a receptionist in a dental office. She has painful plantar fasciitis in both feet that is getting progressively worse and is negatively affecting her quality of life.
In our current world, Maria will likely be directed down the path of disease care (which will probably be mis-labeled as Health care but has nothing to do with Health). Here are two potential paths that Maria can follow which are vastly different and lead to very different outcomes.
Path 1: Disease care
Maria sees her doctor. She reports painful feet, especially worse during her first few steps in the morning. In a 20 minute appointment, her doctor diagnoses her with plantar fasciitis and offers 4 options: 1) pills to control the pain and "inflammation", 2) an injection at the site of pain to ease discomfort, 3) a prescription to visit a pedorthist who can make her custom orthotics, 4) a prescription for physical therapy which Maria will attend twice a week for 8 weeks for treatments that include ultrasound, massage, and isolated foot exercises.
These conventional disease care options mostly aim to reduce pain in the short term (often at the expense of making her issue worse in the long term). The options are disempowering because none of them help Maria understand why her feet hurt, or what she can change in her life to permanently resolve the problem.
The doctor is compensated for the visit and the injection procedure.The pedorthist charges Maria between $500-$1000 to assess her feet and create custom insoles aimed to help reduce her pain (which end up further weakening her feet and stiffening her foot joints over time). The physical therapist makes money with each visit and the 8 weeks of treatment costs Maria around $1,300 and only provides mild short term relief.
Path 2: Health care
Maria told Fred (a dental patient) about her foot issue and her frustration with the pain getting worse. Fred tells Maria that he had the same issue a few years ago and resolved it permanently by wearing better shoes and committing to a daily self care routine every morning that focused on restoring his foot mobility and hip function. Fred tells Maria that he learned about plantar fasciitis from The Foot Collective and directed her to visit their website so she could learn more about it. Fred also gave Maria his email and let her know to contact him if she needed more resources.
Maria found TFC, listened to a podcast about plantar fasciitis, purchased a pair of natural shoes to wear on her daily walks and a foot restoration kit which included toe spreaders and a cork ball which she uses for 10 minutes every morning before her coffee. Within a few weeks her feet felt noticeably better in the morning when she woke up. She continued learning about her body and listening to stories from other people in TFC's digital community who were also struggling with plantar fasciitis. She learned that sitting all day in chairs disrupts her hip function and that tight hips negatively affect her foot position and place extra load on her plantar fascia.
After 1 month, Maria was no longer in pain, she eliminated unnatural shoes from her closet, spends time on the floor at home instead of in chairs, and has kept up her daily 15 minute routine because of how good it makes her body feel.
While the scenario above is hypothetical, from my experience as a physical therapist, it's quite close to reality. Most people are only offered path #1 and it's labeled as Health care. Yes, there are professionals who might offer slightly different options but the above scenario is a reflection of the current status quo that 90%+ of people will be exposed to.
To me, Health care is self care. It involves spending time and energy to understand the issues we face so we can begin solving them permanently. It means finding good information and helpful people who can offer guidance and resources that facilitate understanding and help us make changes in our lives. Health care is first and foremost education that empowers us to serve an active role in our pursuit of Health.
I view Sole Freedom as a Health care company focused on feet. We're in the business of empowering people to become their primary Health care provider when it comes to their lower body. We make money by selling products that help people heal their feet and we provide world class education from The Foot Collective as a free service to help people get the most out of the products they purchase.
Disease care isn’t going away but we can reduce our reliance on it by taking better care of ourselves. By understanding the difference between disease care and Health care, we open up an alternative path that allows us to reclaim responsibility for our well being and resolve issues permanently instead of continually treating symptoms without addressing the root cause.
Disease care isn't Health care because treating symptoms of disease has nothing to do with Health. Taking care of ourselves IS Health care and a small amount of high quality Health education can mitigate a large amount of disease care.
Health care is about supporting individuals on their journey to reclaim responsibility for their well being. It’s about leading them to good resources, helping them make changes, bringing clarity to their process and ensuring they have truthful, helpful information available.
If you found this article helpful, please share it. Share it with anyone you know that is caught in the loop of getting their symptoms treated without ever understanding how to eliminate the cause of their problem.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting our work at Sole Freedom and thanks for taking care of yourself starting with your feet.
Next weeks Microdose for the Sole topic: Footwear sizing
Wishing you lots of Love and great week