I recently completed a health questionnaire on the Kaiser website. Here is the 4th of 5 blogs on the findings.
On May 13 I answered two questions on a Health Questionnaire provided by Kaiser Permanente online. I was curious and wanted to know how I ranked. I was only slightly put off by the “very good”, not “excellent” assessment.
I pretty much knew I would be flagged for weight and cholesterol. Kaiser tends to interpret these numbers with the most conservative and conventional positions. I happen to disagree.
I find the pervasive belief that weight is a reliable surrogate marker for health to be misguided. Current thinking that total and LDL cholesterol is a reliable marker for cardiovascular disease is simplistic.
The third recommendation completely took me by surprise. The questionnaire determined that I am depressed.
GET COUNSELING FOR DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Wait…maybe I better not use that expression.
In the survey I acknowledged sometimes feeling overwhelmed. Occasionally I feel sad. There was no place to answer why.
I parent a son with special needs. He is doing rather well, but navigating life with a teenager is trying for most parents.
I own my own consulting business. Along with most business owners, I am alarmed at the enduring challenges of our crippled economy. especially during the last three years.
I watch as politicians from both parties vote for ideology and political positioning, more than the good of the country. I hardly think my feelings are out of place.
DIAGNOSIS WITH A QUESTIONNAIRE; TREATMENT OPTIONS VIA EMAIL
In 2001 Allan Horwitz wrote Creating Mental Illness. He suggests that we are pathologizing normal responses to difficult or traumatic conditions. Consider Kaiser’s questionnaire and feedback Exhibit 1.
Twice during the next week I was encouraged to seek help with the following presumptuous emails:
May 14, 2011. Want to move beyond blue? Login to steer toward a brighter tomorrow.
HealthMedia® OVERCOMING™ Depression
May 16. 2011. The sun always rises. So can you. A new approach to managing the way you feel.
We wanted to remind you of our invitation to enroll in HealthMedia® OVERCOMING™ Depression.
These emails felt intrusive, obnoxious, patronizing and completely out of line. This is the response to occasionally feeling overwhelmed? This is the response to sometimes feeling sad? Why do these very typical human emotions generate suggestions to treat depression?
Ironically, I am a hearty supporter of therapy. I have benefited greatly from wise and supportive therapeutic counsel over the years. I am pretty happy to ask for help when I need support.
THIS IS NOT EFFECTIVE HEALTH CARE
I’m not sure who wrote the program, who approved the algorithm, and who thinks this is a viable approach to providing health care. Unsolicited advice is never a good idea, especially when it is generated by a digitally programed algorithm. No perspective, no insight, just a couple of check marks and a cascade of suggestions.
If this is what passes for effective health care, we all have reason to feel depressed.