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Health Team

Experts say people need to be more responsible for own health

Posted March 20, 2012 5:05 p.m. EDT
Updated March 20, 2012 7:08 p.m. EDT

— Personal responsibility has been lacking in the debate over how to contain health care costs, several experts said Tuesday during a day-long forum on the future of health care in North Carolina.

The "What the Health: Can We Survive Our Healthcare System?” forum, sponsored by the NC SPIN statewide talk show, attracted a variety of medical experts for a healthy conversation on solutions to the problems facing the nation's system of care.

"We have a system right now that is not sustainable," said Lanier Cansler, former secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, echoing a sentiment offered by others.

Costs continue to rise, chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure are more widespread nationwide and federal and state governments are straining under the load of expanded payments to care for the elderly and needy.

Panelists talked about the critical need for improved community access to care, better utilization of cost-saving technology like electronic medical records and promoting a partnership to put care before profit.

"We've got to be as efficient and effective and also caring in terms of how that innovation gets to patients. So, we understand that it starts with change by us," said Jack Bailey, senior vice president of GlaxoSmithKline.

"We've had a very polite conversation, but the truth of the matter is, someone's savings is someone else's revenue," said Maureen O’Conner, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Many said, however, that reforming the U.S. health care system boils down to something more personal – everyone taking the responsibility to improve his or her health. That could involve making lifestyle changes or simply developing a better relationship with a primary care physician.

"The majority of people in our state don't know their blood pressure, their weight, their blood glucose, their cholesterol," forum organizer Tom Campbell said, noting the results of a recent survey commissioned by the North Carolina Dental Society.

Toward that end, Campbell announced a new statewide initiative, called "A Healthier NC," that will focus on getting people to learn more about their personal health and encourage more collaboration by health care providers.

"It's the health system," said Dr. Victor Dzau, chief executive of Duke University Health System. "It's not only the government's responsibility, it's not only employers, it's everybody's responsibility."