President Obama stated in his state of the union address on Tuesday that the “defining issue of our time” was how to keep the American dream alive. As a practicing physician I feel the defining issue of our time is how to keep the American people alive and well.

As I was listening to the deftly crafted speech, I heard about a blueprint for our economy. Manufacturing, education, tax reform, energy, military, and our role in the world’s affair were mentioned. What was not mentioned to any significance was healthcare. As I answered a few pages from the hospital, I heard a few words about research for killing cancer cells, a slight mention about health insurance companies being fair, and the importance of reigning in the costs of Medicare. These were the only mention of healthcare. Yet when nearly 20% of the GNP( one in every five dollars) will be spent on healthcare by the end of the decade, this is the fastest growing component of the American economy. An important part of any economic blueprint includes the physical health of its people .This was a topic that needed to be not only addressed but stressed in the state of the union. Our greatest asset is our health. Your greatest asset is not your money in the bank but your health Just ask anyone who is ill. Just ask Gabrielle Gifford. She received the most heartfelt response of the evening. Why was this not mentioned?

We definitely have a health care crisis. What are we really doing to solve the health care dilemma? As health care costs escalate, the debt will rise, the American dream will turn into a nightmare as our society becomes sicker, less likely to be productive. less likely to  even think well. The economy will continue to falter. It only makes sense to question the status quo.

Obesity and obesity related illnesses are soaring. The number of prescriptions continue to rise as well as the associated problems of misuse. The growing number of older Americans and the health related problems of aging add to the complexity of the challenge. Depression, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and chronic pain are just a few of the conditions fueling the crisis.

As I listened, I was disappointed these issues were not mentioned. Currently Obamacare is rapidly moving into place. Our country is focusing on access, more efficient delivery, and looking at a plethora of ways to lower costs and be more efficient.  We are merely treating symptoms and not the cause of the problem. If I were having a headache from banging my head on the wall, the real solution would not be a pain medication. We must, as a society , look for and treat the cause of the problems, whether this be obesity, lack of exercise, or lack of personal responsibility for our bodies. This must be a part of the public debate. The questions that need to be asked are, Why are we sick? How can we as a nation get better? How can we get at the cause of our healthcare dilemma?

The medications we take are definitely a problem. I have discovered this in my practice. Hopefully you have discovered this as you have read this. I know this is not a “politically correct topic”. We must get the word out and be more aware. When we do this, we will be part of the solution in keeping more people alive.

Our lack of health is the defining issue of our time and must be addressed to keep the American dream alive.