In the recent main Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat there was an article about the state of the Finnish healthcare sector in the form of numbers and percents. The whole healthcare market size in Finland is almost 20 billion euros. The lion’s share of this (34 %) goes to special health care, the second position goes to basic health care (16 %) and even medicine only takes 12 % part. These are huge amounts of money related to the amount of people living in Finland (5,5 million inhabitants). And Finnish citizens pay this as their taxes.
Health care versus sick care?
The term Health care sector raises serious thoughts. Most of the mentioned 20 billion euros are spent to treatment of sickness, not for preventive actions meaning true health care. Maybe still, a term Sick care sector wouldn’t be the absolute truth, either. Let’s play with a thought for a moment: what if we would have two headings with different actions and euros below them – health care versus sick care. Would this make us and the decision makers see the true state of situation?
Already in the beginning of 70’s there was a theoretic framework called ”Illness-Wellness Continuum”. This was developed by doctor John Walton Travis, who was originally from US and lived later on in Australia. The Continuum compares the relation of illness and holistic wellness. The extremity of illness is pre-mature death and in the other end there is optimal health and wellness. Somewhere between of these extremities there are different levels of sickness and wellness, the so called neutral level located in the middle.
1972, 1988, 2004 John W. Travis, MD
If Finnish health care is examined by this Continuum, we can see we are not on the right track. Most of the present health care is focused on the left side of the continuum, which aims at increasing health to the neutral level. In this state the illness has been treated and the person kind of ”fixed”. But if the target would be good and holistic health and high experienced quality of life by cheaper and preventive actions, we are far behind. We should reach for more.
From Illness to Wellness
The meaning of illness is familiar to most, but what does the work Wellness really mean? It refers to holistic wellness meaning the balance of physical, mental and social well-being. Wellness is a holistic aspect to health and in the center of it there is individual’s own responsibility of himself and his own well-being. It’s a way of life defined by the individual himself – meaning an active process towards a healthier life (Grénman et al, 2012).
In Finland there is going on a huge reform of social and health care sector. The public and private sector are more side by side and the focus is more on the individual and his needs or freedom of choice. The planning has been taking years and it still continues. The direction is positive, but still the discussion related to health is what it has been before. We will not benefit from transforming the structures if we still see health care mostly as sick care.
Albert Einstein was a smart fellow. In addition to the theory of relativity he has said: ”We cannot solve the problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I agree with Albert. We are not lacking data, knowledge, technology or resources to find new brave solutions for preventive health care. We have all the tools to change future, it’s only about will. What ever are the first steps for the solution, I bet for these ingredients: individual and holistic aspect and support from human to human. Add some top level technology and you have the winning menu.
The blog was written by Petteri Paakkunainen, who is the chairman of Movendos Ltd and responsible for the business development of the company.