More Jobs equal Better Health

Everyone’s worried about jobs and the economy. But jobs won’t just help solve the country’s financial crisis…they’ll also help improve the overall health of our nation.That’s right. The answer to better health is jobs—not government-run healthcare.

When I did my research in Southeast Asia in the 1970’s, I worked with The Development of Peoples Foundation. The Foundation was founded by Dr. Jesus de la Paz and a group of private medical practitioners in the Philippines. Dr . De la Paz was the son of Daniel de la Paz, the first Professor of Pharmacology at the University of the Philippines after WWII. He also had taught my professor of pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Domingo Aviado.

The Foundation ran a private clinic for the indigenous populations who had come to the outskirts of the large city, leaving behind their rural homes. These people couldn’t afford the bus fare to get into the city, let alone the private medical care available there. And while there was a government-run hospital in the city—even the doctors in town knew how much it left to be desired. (And how, in some ways, it posed its own  health hazards.) As a result, many of the best doctors volunteered to come out one day a week to help staff the Foundation’s clinic.

We also provided sanitation programs, educational programs, and trained traditional midwives to be able to deliver most babies at home (instead of having to go to the public hospital—which in most cases was more dangerous).

But it was not a free clinic. Each family made an affordable contribution each month. So it was essentially like paying to be a member of a health maintenance organization.

As you might imagine, unemployment was a problem among the population we served. Many of the women took in “piecework.” That is, sewing for the households in the community and in the larger city. But they were limited in how much work they could take on because they had to do their sewing by hand. They simply couldn’t afford their own sewing machines.

So the Foundation invested in some sewing machines and started a “self-employment clinic” where women could bring their work. There were three shifts each day, keeping the machines going 24  hours.

It was a huge success. And not just for the economic status of the families…

Suddenly, we noticed that the families of the women who were working in our self-employment program were no longer coming to the clinic. The assumption was that since they now had disposable income, they were going to private doctors.

However, when we looked into it a little further, we found they were actually no longer getting sick.

Instead of paying for private medical care, their new incomes went to better food, housing, and sanitation—and as a result, kept them healthier.

So if our government truly wants to improve the lives—and the health—of U.S. citizens, it should turn its focus to encouraging job growth, not government-run healthcare. That should have been the focus during 2009-2011, not forcing Obamacare through the Congress on a hyper-partisan and unethical basis (see the Daily Dispatch “The Healthcare Reform Double Fraud”).