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Sustainable Health Care - Tragedy of the Commons

Health Care Sustainability

When we talk about sustainability, we're often talking about responsible stewardship of a resource.  In the case of sustainable Sustainability in health carehealth care, that resource is the ability to provide quality care to all Americans in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost.  How does this resource we know as health care become stressed and perhaps unsustainable?  To describe health care as a resource, let's look at Wikipedia's definition of the tragedy of the commons:

The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory by Garrett Hardin, which states that individuals acting independently and rationally according to each's self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource. The term is taken from the title of an article written by Hardin in 1968, which is in turn based upon an essay by a Victorian economist on the effects of unregulated grazing on common land.

"Commons" in this sense has come to mean such as atmosphereoceans, rivers, fish stocks, the office refrigerator, energy or any other shared resource which is not formally regulated; not common land in its agricultural sense.

Now think of the commons as health care.

Think about your own personal experiences in health care.  Do you have a relative who uses an inordinate amount of health care?  Do you know anyone who's had a medical test or surgical procedure and prior to that event you asked yourself, is this test (or surgery) really necessary?  What about the surgeon who will fix anything?  We all have examples in our individual lives where we question the necessity or validity of a proposed test or procedure in health care. 

This resource we know as health care simply can't live on forever.  It's a drain on our economy, expensive to the individual and unsustainable.

Let's talk.


Dr. Jeffrey Oster
Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM

Medical Advisor 

Updated 12/26/19

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