Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dangerous Health Care Reform

Bear with me, it's Sarah and I'm going to get a little political. Well, not me personally, but I wanted to use this forum to highlight an article I just finished by the editor of The American Journal of Health Promotion.

The article, "The Danger and Opportunity of Health Care Reform Providing a Huge Influx of Funds for Health Promotion... and how to Avert Danger", is written by Dr. Michael O'Donnell and highlights just how important it is to protect the work of existing health promotion vendors. Since I happen to make my living through one such vendor, I was immediately drawn to his statement.

As someone who tends to appreciate all things free and discounted, I normally would have agreed with his scenario that "The best way to persuade employers, hospitals, insurance companies and other organizations to implement health promotion programs would be to provide free program materials and consulting services". The reality that Dr. O'Donnell highlights, however, is that this scenario in real life would cut revenues of health promotion providers leading to layoffs, threats to innovation, and potential bankruptcy for health promotion businesses. My perspective changed.

Dr. O'Donnell argues that, in general, federal funds should be used to do what private businesses cannot do on their own. Hello, hello, government representatives, we're doing health promotion on our own! And, we're doing a great job!

Thank goodness he provides four solutions for avoiding the dangers described above:

1. Develop core technologies that could be entered into the public domain and used as the foundation for new products and services developed by entrepreneurs.

2. Support program evaluation and research as well as information synthesis and dissemination so that the most effective methods are widely known.

3. [My favorite] Contract with existing health promotion vendors to develop and provide new products and services, rather than hiring new government employees to develop them internally.

4. When free or discounted services are needed for small businesses or other specific under served population groups, pay vendors to provide these services rather than having the government provide these services directly.

What do you think of Dr. O'Donnell's position? Are businesses threatened when government provides an agency to offer free services?

What about the U.S. Postal Service? Could our industry thrive the same way DHL, UPS and FedEx have?

I'd love to hear other examples you've seen where a private business is forced to compete with a government agency that uses tax payers' money to develop products and deliver services and then gives them away for free.


Peggy said...

A personal note...I am glad to read the new format. It informs your loving family where your heads and hearts are at, or traveling towards. Nice Halloween costumes, by the way. Peg

Teaching and Transformation said...

Education. While public schools are available for all, private schools also do just fine. The idea behind government control is that there is some accountability - although extremely flawed - in making sure that resources are shared throughout all of a voting district. However, because some are unhappy with the government's system, private schools do well among those with privelege, Catholic schools are struggling but still available to many disadvantaged, and now Charter schools are moving in asking the government to pay them to do a better job at advancing education than they do themselves. Most states are currently realizing the efficacy of this idea and are latching on. The trick is to find ways to ensure that as control of public systems moves out of the hands of those with elected positions, accountability remains to make sure everyone receives access to programs their tax dollars pay into.