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ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: what can be done to save our broken medical system? The film examines the powerful forces trying to maintain the status quo in a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. ESCAPE FIRE follows dramatic human stories as well as leaders fighting to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the US military. The film is about a way out, about saving the health of a nation. Written by
We as a society need to create a metaphoric "escape fire" for healthcare and implore those in our society to join in it
I love talking about things I have no true understanding of or things I sort of understand but do not possess an extensive amount of knowledge on. For an aspiring journalist, or even a formal journalist, that's a deadly move. A majority of the debates I engage in and possess a pretty modest amount of knowledge on is politics and the controversial debates within it. Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare serves as my background and my informative tool to the enormously complex and argumentative issue of healthcare in America.
The film is broken up into fairly simple, concise chapters, each of them trying to break apart and dissect the enormous issue at hand. We're told from the start, Americans pay record amounts for healthcare, yet receive mediocre treatment and don't even have a very high life expectancy compared to other developed countries who pay significantly less money for treatment. One doctor, who we see working her final day at a local hospital, claims the biggest flaw with the hospital community is that management and the government care more about "productivity" rather than how much care and attention is supplied to patients. Dr. Don Berwick, former head of Medicare and Medicaid, states that the doctors and the nurses have been doing their job correctly for years, but the job design in itself is flawed and hugely misses the ball on the bigger issue which is to try and give people the best and most reputable care they need.
Shannon Brownlee, director of the New America Health Policy Program, states that healthcare, like everything else in America, is like a business; they don't want you to die, but they don't want you to get better, they just want you coming back. She goes on to state that the United States spends over $300 billion on pharmaceuticals, and that it and New Zealand are the only countries in the world where it is legal to advertise and solicit drugs on Television. We as a society have become dependent on some kind of pill, whether we'd like to admit it or not. One of the first things you hear at a doctor's office is what tiny orange capsule of pills they will prescribe to you and the final thing you hear after one of those monotonous, ubiquitous drug commercials is "ask your doctor." I remember an interview talk radio host Mancow Muller conducted with documentarian Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me once where Spurlock stated that there is a pill for almost every possible problem and the first thing we are told when having pain is to "take a pill." Why work to relieve it when you can take a supplement and carry on? Perhaps the United States' "on the go" society is to blame. Everywhere you look there are take-out places, to-go coffee cups, or even meals on the go - all you need to do is microwave them (another invention saving loads of time). Sure there are healthier alternatives, but when you go to McDonald's and see a salad for six dollars and a burger for as low as ninety-nine cents, in this tight economy, what are you more likely to vouch for? And if you decide to vouch for that salad, what happens when you put dressing on top with all that fat, sugar, and sodium? You've effectively soiled a healthy meal.
We are informed there was a drug on the market, with numerous commercials, optimistic and convincing in presence, called "Avandia," which was used to combat diabetes and maybe even rid the system of it. Dr. Steven Nissen found out traitorous information on the drug, that it was causing heart failure and heart attacks that the company kindly hid from the world. He went all the way to court, fighting its recall until he was successful in 2011.
We are heading towards a grim future. Lower pay, longer hours, fewer jobs, poorer education, grossly unaffordable food prices, minimal economic growth, a more dictative government, the end of retirement, and if this film's facts continue to prove prophetic, worse healthcare. If there were any documentary capable of brewing cynicism and pessimism, yet also able to enlighten a viewer on a complex issue, it's Escape Fire.
NOTE: The title apparently comes from the Mann Gulch fire in 1949, where smoke jumpers were deployed to stop a fire in the Helena National Forest Preserve in Montana. Thirteen men died as a result of this fire, but one of the survivors was a man named Wag Dodge. As him and his crew were running away from the fire just a few yards behind them, he lit a match setting fire to the grass in front of him successfully creating a dry circle around him now called an "escape fire." Dodge attempted to get his other crew into the circle, but due to an unfortunate miscommunication, they perished and he was the only one to emerge from it alive. We as a society need to create a metaphoric "escape fire" for healthcare and implore those in our society to join in it.
Starring: Don Berwick, Shannon Brownlee, Steve Burd, Steven Nissen, Robert Yates, and Wendell Potter. Directed by: Susan Frömke and Matthew Heineman.
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