Do we need a health care version of the olympics?

I’ve often wondered why people (and society in general) can get so worked up and passionate about certain events, and yet remain absolutely untouched by others. Previously, I noted the zeal and passion that some people have for computer products – the same concept applies to fans of music bands or car aficionados and so forth. Why is it that there isn’t the same fervor for saving people’s lives? The crisis in Africa barely even registers in the media or to the average person’s consciousness.

Then, just this past month, the 2006 Winter Olympics were held in Torino, Italy. As an aside, I must admit some degree of national pride at how well the Canadian athletes (particularly the women) performed. I was amazed at how easily I could get engrossed in events like bobsleigh, cross-country skiing, or even skeleton. Other than at the Olympics, I don’t even think about these events, and yet, every four years or so, I find myself glued to the TV to see how Canadian athletes fare.

Maybe it’s time we need a health care Olympics.

I’m not suggesting that health care professionals “compete” with one another, but rather hold a world-wide event every four years to celebrate the progress that countries have made. This event could highlight advances in the basic medical sciences, primary care, public health, and even ehealth. I know that different societies hold annual events, but maybe that’s too often to capture the attention and imagination of the general/lay public.

Is it out of our mind to push our governments, industries, and population to compete to improve upon past achievements? Each country could work to establish areas of global excellence and then enter in friendly competition to see who has made the most progress in four years time – or who has the most elegant solution to problems. Building upon the national pride of countries, this type of event might be a catalyst for people to start thinking of health care in terms of “systems development” rather than providing care for a particular individual or a particular cause.

Not to forget those less fortunate, these health care Olympics could also be the time when countries take stock of how well we (as a global community) are handling poverty, famine, AIDS, and other global threats. The (athletic) Olympics, in my opinion, is a celebration of what people can achieve when they are inspired to perform in athletic competitions. Maybe health care needs to find some inspiration to go “faster, stronger, and higher”. The stories we hear are those of children being inspired by athletes to take-up sports and compete for their country. Why can’t we do the same, but in a health care domain?