01 February 2015

In health care reform, the most mundane, tried-and-tested solutions are usually best.  We do not need an epoch-making breakthrough in personalized medicine or genomic analysis to save American health care.  (We need, simply, a national health plan.)

This Aetna-sponsored video lauds Google for, among other things, doing a research study on "what defines a healthy person."  I suspect Google will come up with the same answer that the ancient medical writer Galen formulated:

...unless we take discernible impairment of function as our criterion for distinguishing illness from health, and instead consider the exact qualitative condition in each case, we shall have to adopt the doctrine that one is always in a pathological state, since there is no one whose functions are all in an optimal state.  (Galen:  Selected Works, translator P.N. Singer, Oxford UP)

It's very convenient for the insurance industry to pump up our desire to attain perfect individual health.  Obscenely high premiums and extortionate copayments become easier to justify when we've been drenched in data about healthy behaviors and risk factors and genetic predispositions.

(The last of these three is of very little use, anyway, without a better understanding of how genes interact with each other -- see studies on the causes of homosexuality.  When it comes to knowing how our genes communicate with one another we are just as clueless as Galen.)

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