One of my common complaints about Chattanooga is that it exists between two major film markets. Many times we don’t get quality films simply because the tickets are more likely to be sold in Atlanta or Nashville. We get all of the major releases, of course and there is quality film out there; it just doesn’t always get here. Technology, however, is steadily beginning to bridge this gap. This week the documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare was released wide. It is playing in both Nashville and Atlanta, but not here.
To their credit, the filmmakers were wise enough to release the film on iTunes as well, where you can rent it for only $3.99. Not only does this broaden the potential audience, but it also allows for people in our city to join in an important conversation about healthcare.
An escape fire is a means of escaping a wildfire by deliberately setting aflame surrounding vegetation in order to rob an approaching dangerous fire of fuel. Escape Fire seeks to encourage something similar in our health care industry – a radical overhaul of the current system to save it from its own well-intentioned destruction. There have been a wide variety of documentaries over the years that point out the flaws in our health care system. Films like Michael Moore’s Sicko advocated sweeping reform through universal healthcare. To Moore, the solution was more government oversight and universal access for all Americans. Escape Fire argues that the entire system is broken, regardless of who pays for it, because it focuses too much on disease management rather than preventative care. It takes aim at everyone – from Medicare’s pay for procedure policies to pharmaceutical companies withholding dangerous information from consumers in order to sell more drugs to the dangerous power of medical industry lobbying. The premise is that every part of our healthcare industry can be improved, if only we can get out of our own way and remove profit from an industry concerned with healing.
Unlike other documentaries on the subject of healthcare, Escape Fire doesn’t simply focus on civilian health. A significant portion of the film shows the problems inherent in military healthcare as well. If the current healthcare system for civilian Americans is collapsing, the military healthcare system has already imploded. The film takes its time following an infantry soldier on the road to recovery, while pointing out that suicide rates among soldiers have risen. A soldier is more likely to die from suicide than in combat. We see how the young man in the film was given a wide variety of narcotics to manage pain, given a wide variety of anti-depressants to manage mood disorders, and given very little in the way of actual recovery options. His symptoms were managed, but the root of the problems remained. It takes preventative, low-cost methods like acupuncture and meditation to heal him.
Ultimately, the film argues that holistic approaches and life style changes that encourage the body to heal itself are far more cost effective and provide better treatments than high tech options like surgery or prescription drugs. The problem is that the healthcare field resists changes of this nature due to a profit driven industry. The health care industry is stuck in a numbers game, forgetting that each number represents a person in need of healing. The documentary clearly states its purpose and provides steps that are needed to move in a better direction. It’s not a complaint, but a conversation, one that is very much worth having. $3.99 isn’t too much to ask for a little information.