21st Century Fundamentals: Self-Education and Healthcare

For all the talk in the political sphere of taking personal responsibility in health care, precious little is being done to prepare people to learn about healthcare options.  However, such lack of discussion doesn't negate the argument that self-education on health issues works.

An obituary for Dr. Tom Ferguson, found in today's New York Times, discusses Dr. Ferguson's passion for helping individuals understand their health care needs and options.  His daughter credits Dr. Ferguson's willingness to "tweak" his doctor's directions, for managing his case of multiple myeloma, for extending his life.

"Being a doctor, he was ahead of the game," Ms. Dreiss said. "He kept with the traditional party line and did what doctors told him he should do but tweaked their advice in his own way. He read widely, worked out his own doses and was not afraid to experiment; when he heard about a clinical trial involving thalidomide, he called the drug company and told them he wanted to be in on it. He lived far longer than most people with this disease do."

Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, documented his efforts to learn more about prostate cancer so that he could participate in managing his affliction.  This 1996 Fortune magazine story highlights his efforts and is a testimony to his success (Mr. Grove is a survivor).

Bottom line, Dr. Ferguson's thesis is correct.  So, how do we teach people to learn, to manage the information critical to their success – even survival?

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