Millennials Take the Healthcare Wheel
I am a 22-year-old intern at the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Assocation (MHA). I am newly graduated with my first degree in Public Health and just a short year away from achieving my MPH in Healthcare Management. And I am a millennial.
Recent negative media and bleak politics have made two points very clear: first, millennials are lazy, self-absorbed, and entitled, and secondly, the United States healthcare system is nowhere near perfect. I don’t doubt that there are many current healthcare professionals that dread the day millennials exercise control of the healthcare sector. To the same extent, I don’t doubt that millenials in my position are panic-stricken, knowing that they are soon hanging up their caps and gowns and entering that same scary sector. But I’m not afraid of the future.
It is no secret that baby-boomers and Gen X-ers have transformed healthcare in these past decades, but millennials will have the opportunity to completely revolutionize the way our country views healthcare. As the “drive-through generation,” we value efficiency, low-cost selections, and independent research. We’re experts in technology and idealize telehealth as a simple (and cost-effective) method to delivering and receiving care.
Most of all, millennials rhapsodize about a much more holistic approach to medicine. If there is one major takeaway from the notion of public health, it is that health is not the absence of disease, but a projection of day to day behavior, societal inequity, and social determinants. Therefore, instead of fixating on the treatment and maintenance of chronic illness, millennials center themselves on the advocacy against, and prevention of ill health from the very beginning.
Thanks to previous generations, extensive medical advances have been made to lengthen the life expectancy of US citizens. People are living longer, yet are having fewer children; hence the dilemma of our currently aging population. By the year 2035, 20% of the US population will be of retirement age (65+). An increase in the number of elderly citizens directly parallels the increased need for geriatric care, yet there is a frightening lack of geriatricians available right now. Geriatric specializing physicians are not paid at the same level as other specialized physicians and therefore less and less medical students are becoming inclined to specialize in the field.
For example, cardiologists make more than double the yearly salary of a geriatrician and there are roughly three-times the amount of registered cardiologists in Massachusetts compared to geriatricians. Currently, 15% of our population is over the age of 65 and 48% of our population has at least one of the three risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD)- high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking.
Here’s the bottom line: there are more people potentially burdened with CVD, a preventable illness, than there are current aged people in the United States. Aging is inescapable and one day soon there will be desperate urgency for geriatric professionals. Prevention of CVD today may allow for better resource allocation tomorrow to protect our soon to be mature population. America relies heavily on treatment of disease in healthcare and not nearly enough on prevention and diagnostic care. This is allowing other populations, such as our geriatric society, to suffer. Imagine if we spent half the time and resources we spend on treatment of CVD on prevention efforts of the illness instead. That 48% would most likely plummet, allowing us to reallocate our resources to focus on increasingly pressing issues, like the opioid epidemic and our aging population.
Healthcare has a never-ending shortages of physicians and nurses, but there is an even higher shortage of public health advocates. We need more community health workers, more policy advisors, more educators and more health communications specialists. Our system may never be perfect, but there is always room for improvement.
Which brings us back to the millennial population. Not once have I considered that my generation is unskilled or ignorant to the world around us. There is passion, determination and drive in every direction you look.
To my fellow lazy, self-absorbed and entitled millennials: I encourage you to consider a job in public health if you are doubtlessly passionate about creating powerful change to better our nation.
I know I am.
Erin Manton is a millennial, student, and vital part of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital team. She represents a future of healthcare that we should all be proud of. Thank you for your perspective Erin! For more information on healthcare education and expert speakers for your organization, please contact us at hspeakers.com