“Tiramisu is heaven in my mouth,” said one of my friends recently during a dinner party. We were eating tiramisu (yum!) and I flashed back to when I was living in Italy… I enjoyed some fine tiramisu during those times, and it added extra padding to my bod, but more importantly, it signified happy times. I’ve never eaten tiramisu alone – only during celebratory dinners. I started thinking about the word “tiramisu” – the literal translation means “pull me up from” or “pick me up.”

Health care providers and others doing innovative health care need to be like tiramisu. Positive, celebratory, encouraging, multi-layered…social. So much emphasis is place on sickness and not enough on wellness. Even when someone has just survived a major heart attack, there’s opportunity for wellness. Opportunity for encouragement and celebration – the person is alive, right?! Capitalize on life, rather than focusing on death.

I’ve been fortunate to work with people who understand this. Especially in these past few months, more providers and agencies are looking to design positive strategies for more successful health care. Thank goodness! We are far from an effective health care delivery system, but if more folks focus on the positive, we’ll get closer.

During a work project meeting yesterday, the topic of Alcoholics Anonymous came up. It came up because our group was discussing AA as an example of a “best practice” health care program.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the success of AA, and then this morning, I went to one of my favorite blogs, The Future Well, to discover Jay Parkinson – a brilliant physician and social scientist – posted about AA. His analysis is spot on! And what he writes half way through his post reveals where the opportunity lies for folks in health care who “get it”:

“Doctors are just so bad at lifestyle and behavior modification. Or maybe they’re just uninterested, or ill-prepared, or not reimbursed for social change? Maybe individual physicians think fixing these big hairy problems is too big of an issue for them to exert any effort? Medical care has pills and scalpels– not urban design, portion size, influential friends, walkability, and the complexities of the modern family structure. I should know. I got about 4 lectures in medical school on topics other than sickness.” ~ Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH

Medical doctors are not to blame for our sickness. The way doctors serve these days, though, does not enhance our wellness because our system does not allow for enough time nor resources. Perhaps MDs are not supposed to be experts in health behavior change. Perhaps the resources need to come from outside the medical community.

There’s so much opportunity for positive, quality work in health care. What’s clear is that we need a “pick me up” strategy for effective health care and health promotion.

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