Patch Adams

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people in the United States are without
healthcare. While few would disagree that
the latter is the more appalling of the two
facts most might find the former more
shocking. We are currently living in a country
where healthcare is a privilege and not a
right and very few people are speaking up.
Some of the few proud protestors could be
found at the Redesigning the Healthcare
Intensive hosted by Patch Adams, yes-the
Robin Williams clown doctor, and the
School for Designing a Society at the Independent
Media Center here in Urbana.
One might imagine that this healthcare
intensive would attract similar people,
with similar backgrounds and similar values,
but this wasn’t the case. As expected
there were doctors, nurses, and medical
students, but there were also School for
Designing a Society students, art majors,
Canadians, holopaths, Oklahomans, high
school students, naturopaths and a really
old lady with a crazy hat from Maryland
that took extensive notes, but had no connection
to healthcare beyond being a
patient. Each brought their own experiences
and views to the intensive making
for many great discussions, really amazing
speeches and a few heated arguments.
The Intensive was a three-day conference
that met in three different formats throughout
the day. The first part of the day and the
first part of the afternoon were spent listening
to speakers. The speakers ranged from
Patch Adams himself to Paula Murphy, an
everyday chiropractor with an innovative
practice. After the “time clock,” sounded we
would break into our design groups. Each
design group was given the task to use false
statements, (statements you would like to
be true but are not), to find solutions to the
problems of the healthcare system. The last
part of the day was spent in small groups
listening to speakers where you could learn
about everything from health co-ops to the
history of the private insurance industry. At
the very end of the day there was always
some amazingly fun activity like Indian
dancing on the roof.
From listening to the speakers and learning
about the current healthcare systems in
Cuba and Canada no
one had trouble
making false statements.
They ranged
everywhere from
broad, seemingly disconnected
issues like
“the environment
does not pollute our
bodies” to the seemingly
logical “everyone
has the right to
free healthcare.” To
maintain the morale
of the group as well as make legitimate
progress we focused mainly on plausible,
realistic and fairly small scale changes that
we could personally make to help improve
the system. Because I had very little experience
with design groups other than my own
I feel I should share some solutions proposed
by my design group. The paramedics
in our group were concerned with the community’s
knowledge of basic health. So to
educate the people of their community, as
well as avoid unnecessary calls, they proposed
using the side of their ambulance as
health billboard. They would change the
message according to the season, but each
vehicle would list symptoms, and treatments
of minor illnesses and injuries.
Another solution proposed
by a medical
student was based on
a currently working
model. He said that
the comfort that the
library in the children’s
cancer wing of
a hospital that he had
recently visited made
him want to open a
library in the children’s
wing of his
hospital. Because he
knew asking for textbooks, employees, and
enough space to hold a library was probably
out of the question he decided to begin with
a small book cart and eventually work his
way up to a closet.
Each idea developed at this intensive is a
step towards creating a healthcare system
that the United States can be proud of.
Whether you propose free medical school,
to increase the amount of doctors, preventative
medicine instead of reactive medicine,
natural cures or clowning, all of us have the
potential to make healthcare available to all.

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