Fundamentals of health care involve knowledge about how the body works, how to take care of the body, and how the health care system works. This section covers basic anatomy of the body, including genetics, which is the foundation of what makes each person unique and also help us understand why some diseases affect only certain people. Topics that cover taking care of the body include prevention, exercise and fitness, and rehabilitation. By reading the topics within Making the Most of Health Care and those within Legal and Ethical Issues, consumers of health care will be more informed and more equipped to negotiate the often overly complex health care system. Death and dying is inevitable, and understanding what happens during the dying process can often lead to a more comfortable experience for the dying person as well as the dying person’s loved ones.
Fundamentals Sections (A-Z)
Death and Dying
A century ago, most people who suffered major injuries or contracted serious infections died soon afterward. Most people expected little more than comfort measures from doctors. Today, because medical procedures commonly extend the lives of people who have serious illnesses, death is often mistakenly seen as an event that can be deferred indefinitely. However, death is an intrinsic part of life, and talking about the likely outcomes of illness, including death and dying, is an important part of health care.
Exercise and Fitness
Physical fitness is the capacity to do physical activities with vigor and alertness and without undue fatigue. Fitness is also the degree to which people can withstand stress and persevere under difficult or emergency circumstances. Exercise is physical activity done regularly to improve fitness, maintain fitness, or slow the loss of fitness. Fit people have more energy to pursue leisure activities. Regular exercise is one of the best things that people can do to help prevent illness, preserve health and longevity, and enhance quality of life. Exercise comes in many forms and can vary in intensity of effort. With so many ways to exercise, almost everyone can participate in some way.
Financial Issues in Health Care
In the United States, health care is technologically advanced but expensive. Health care costs were about $2.6 trillion dollars in 2010. For decades, the amount of money spent on health care has increased more than the overall economy has grown. For example, health care spending used to be only about 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1960s, but in 2010, it increased to 17.6%. (GDP is the total market value of goods and services produced within the borders of a country. It is the main measure used by government departments to monitor the economy in the short term.) In the United States, the percentage of GDP spent on health care is substantially higher than that in any other nation. This percentage is
Legal and Ethical Issues
The law has a lot to say about personal decision-making. For example, people have the legal right to make their own health care decisions. However, poor health can jeopardize people’s ability to exercise their legal rights. Safeguarding these rights requires advance thinking and planning. Sudden or chronic illness can cause profound weakness and confusion, which makes people vulnerable and can lead to the unwilling loss of control. Conducting personal affairs, making wishes known, and making sure those wishes are respected may be impossible for people who are physically or mentally impaired. Nevertheless, adults of any age can take steps to protect themselves against losing control over their life, and such steps are especially important for older people.
Making the Most of Health Care
Traditional medical care focuses on improving health by identifying and treating health problems that have already produced symptoms or complications. In contrast, preventive medical care focuses on preventing health problems from occurring. Preventive care also focuses on diagnosing problems before symptoms or complications arise, when the chances of recovery are greatest. When done well, prevention improves overall health and reduces health care costs.
Rehabilitation services are needed by people who have lost the ability to function normally, often because of an injury, a stroke, an infection, a tumor, surgery, or a progressive disorder (such as arthritis—see page Physical measures). A pulmonary rehabilitation program (see page Breathing exercises) is often appropriate for people who have chronic obstructive lung disease. People who become weak after prolonged bed rest (for example, because of a severe injury or after surgery) also need rehabilitation. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, treatment of any pain and inflammation, and retraining to compensate for specific lost functions are the typical focus of rehabilitation. Treatment usually involves continued sessions of one-on-one training for many weeks.