Karina Barriga Albring

Equinox Staff


New Hampshire Public Television, the N.H. Citizens Health Initiative and Endowment presented a film and a panel discussion on health care. “US. Health care: The Good News,” produced by Lisa Hartman, was brought to Keene State College on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

The film screening was also at Dartmouth College and Plymouth State University. According to the movie, the United States is the only industrialized democracy that doesn’t offer health care to everybody. Nevertheless, according to Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy expert, Dr. Elliott Fisher’s pronunciation in the film, “there [is] some good news” regarding health care issues.

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The film showed how some typical American communities manage to implement simple practices in their health system to make it more effective and accessible. It described how the public has come together with the medical community to prioritize health and wellness over money and improve the life quality of every citizen.

After the film there was a panel discussion, which featured experts who exposed some of the health issues within the state and discussed certain aspects the film covered. The panelists were Dr. Don Caruso, from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, Barbara Duckett from Home Health care Hospice and Dr. Thomas Connelly, director of the Nursing Program at KSC.

Keene State Interim President Jay Kahn said the college “is very engaged in health and wellness fields.” He affirmed 15 percent of KSC students are majoring in these fields and that it is a growing thing. “We have a new nursing program. We have 80 students in the program and it is growing around 65 to 80 students per year.” Kahn affirmed having the event at the college “gives exposure to our students to health issues and to health professionals”.

For Dawn DeAngelis, chief content officer of NHPTV and event organizer, explained the aim of the event is to get people to think differently. She said, “Instead of thinking well I’m going to vote for someone and they are going to fix the problem, they should think about what they can do in their own community.”

Regarding the way health care has been treated during the campaign for the Presidential elections, DeAngelis said, “I think it has been a political football” and she hopes “after the elections we can see the conversation come back to the community level.”

Kahn agreed that “health care is being looked at as a cost issue and not as a quality of life issue.”  He said, “we are losing sight of some of the major goals that the health care act contains, which [is] to try to have a healthier population.”

Panel moderator Ned Helms, from N.H. Institute of Health Policy and Practices, affirmed America doesn’t only have one health care system, it has many. “There are places in America where health care works…. we need to replicate the best functioning health systems in our country; we don’t need to become Sweden or France,” Helms said.

“When you watch the film, it portraits communities all over the country that have different methods of treating people, treating whole communities,” DeAngelis said.

This piece explained how research done at Dartmouth College helped identify some towns that have health care systems that apparently work very well for most people. According to a publication called “The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care,” Washington state holds two cities that are an example of healthy communities in the country: Seattle and Everett. These have around the average number of uninsured inhabitants; however, they have managed to provide good quality health care even to this population.

A critical step to expand health and reduce cost is investing in preventative medicine rather than in expensive equipment to treat patients have already reached a serious condition.

Prenatal care could prevent almost any health issues in children. That’s why in Everett and Seattle, every pregnant woman’s health expenses are covered.

According to doctors in the documentary, investment in medical equipment is not always the best idea. Panelists at KSC agreed. More advanced medical equipment equals more surgeries, and this implies a higher cost. It is important to have the necessary equipment, but “it shall not be the number one priority of health care facilities,” Caruso said.

He also expressed that there is the necessity to “produce more primary care physician.” He explained that the point is not to “add the cost of the system by implementing primary care… it is to spread the cost in a different way.”

Caruso questioned American health care regarding economic recognition for different areas of medicine. He said “there is something wrong in our system” if doctors cannot afford to be primary care physicians because cardiology and neurology experts earn five times more. Regarding the situation of health care in New Hampshire, Dr. Caruso confirmed the state “has some of the lowest costs in the country”.

Duckett affirmed part of the good news regarding health care in Keene is home care. She said, “Right now, we have an active initiative right now to reduce the anti-psychotic medication used in residences, which obviously improves quality of life.”

The voice of KSC in the panel, Dr. Thomas Connelly, referred to the Vision 2020 project. He said that “to make Cheshire County healthier we need to have prepared staff.”

The main aspects that make the places shown in  “US. Health care: The Good News” different from other communities is that they have reduced costs and better quality services. According to the film, Dartmouth experts say the doctors are taking simple steps and “doing great things regarding health care.”

The movie shows that some of the strategies to lower costs include creating electronic bases to keep patients’ medical records. This saves space, money, and allows doctors to provide patients a more personalized attention.

Doctors in the film advise lowering costs by promoting the use of generic medicine over original brands. These are cheaper and have the same components, for instance will have the same effect on the patient as the original brand.

Also, experts from communities shown in the film strongly suggest that doctors are required to work under a salary. This guarantees that there will not be preferences at the moment of receiving patients, that staff would provide personalized attention and spend more time with each patient. That way, a closer relation will be build between them, and the doctors will be able to take care of patients better.


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at


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