I strongly recommend the movie ESCAPE FIRE as a way to summarize some of what is happening in American healthcare and some of what motivates me to do the work I do. I am working hard to go beyond the status quo in many ways and I motivate my patients to do the same for their own health. Check it out!

ESCAPE FIRE examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. Award-winning filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke follow dramatic human stories as well as leaders fighting to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the US military. ESCAPE FIRE is about finding a way out. It’s about saving the health of a nation.”

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
……… you’re a firework….

This popular Katy Perry song came on my radio the other night as I drove home from an event where I felt “fired up” and discussed this movie. It summarizes the need for a paradigm shift towards a system of health and healing.

“Seriously mom, who can feel like a plastic bag?”

I was actually able to keep the song on the radio that evening, as my two sons were not in the back seat begging me to turn it off. Perhaps the plastic bag simile goes a bit too far, but in our current health system patients are certainly feeling belittled as are many physicians. There are so many layers of the system that are not patient focused. We have pay-for-production, suppressive treatments that only band-aid the problem, and a disease management system that has evolved to actually benefit from illness. ESCAPE FIRE talks about how easy it is to get embedded in the status quo. It attempts to catalyze a shift in how our country views health and healing. Here in Austin we are reducing our use of plastic bags at all our stores. What does it take for us each to ignite the light of health and healing?

“The goal of ESCAPE FIRE is to address what might be done to create a sustainable system for the future, to transcend the misinformation, the angry partisan debates, and create a clear and comprehensive look at healthcare in America.” The movie discusses the 7-minute doctor’s visit and the pressures of productivity and complex reimbursement trumping the desire to help patients.

I admit that I am a bit biased. In 2011, I completed the University of Arizona’s Integrative Medicine Fellowship which is mentioned in this movie. I was drawn to the fellowship because I was looking for an Escape Fire after over a decade of practicing traditional primary care. I like the bigger picture, as I know so many of my colleagues do. I enjoy addressing the issues for patients not just suppressing them. As the movie says; I know there “must be a different way” and that it is “good people and a bad system.”

So, here are 10 highlights from this movie:

1. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
2. We have some perverse economic incentives in our healthcare system.
3. We spend more on health care in the US than other countries with worse outcomes.
4. We have great rescue care in the US but not great prevention.
5. About 65% of Americans are overweight and almost 75% of healthcare costs are spent on preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society.
6. We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs––almost as much as the rest of the world combined.
7. As a nation we seem to be stuck in a mindset that drugs are the only legitimate way to cure disease and often forget that our bodies have an innate healing capacity.
8. Half the ads on network TV are pharmaceutical.
9. In the military, soldiers’ prescription drugs have tripled in 5 years. Acupuncture, mindfulness and more are being explored and used as alternatives.
10 More is not always better.

Have you seen the movie? What do you think? No one should feel like a plastic bag. How can we each be a firework for our own health?