Are “culture of health” and “culture of death” mutually exclusive? Ask most refugees from 1930s socialist Europe, and my guess is their answer will not only be “no,” but more likely “the former ushers in the latter.” That is to say, it is difficult to imagine a culture that assigns a value on human beings based upon their health, without questioning what that culture does to human beings who are judged to be “not healthy.”
What brings this question to mind is a disturbing quotation, in large bold-face type, found at the National Academy of Medicine website. The Academy is announcing its new Culture of Health program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and it explicitly links a person’s social value to being well:
A culture of health is where good health flourishes across geographic, demographic, and social sectors; where being healthy and staying healthy is an esteemed social value; and where everyone has access to affordable, quality health care. [emphasis added] — Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey, President & CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Millions of frail, elderly, disabled people are chronically ill due to no fault of their own. Will they be esteemed in this new Culture of Health?
Over at the RWJF website, the foundation is asking their partners to help them visualize this brave new world:
We’ve listened as [educators, policymakers, business leaders, community organizers] have told us how they are picturing themselves living in a Culture of Health.
Let me help out with that picture. No elderly, sick, wheelchair-bound “super-utilizers.” Only young, athletic, vibrant persons. Only the fit? Something like this: