A Historical View of Healthcare
Dutton knows about the importance of good health care policy. As Executive
Director of Northern Arizona University's Interdisciplinary
Health Policy Institute, Dutton regularly brings together a wide spectrum
of experts to tackle health policy issues. With health care reform in the
United States a topic of national debate,, for instance, he recently assembled a
top-level group of Arizona policymakers, industry representatives, and
academics for a round-table discussion on health care coverage and policy. The
goal, he says, was to help key Arizona decision makers understand the attitudes
on all sides of the debate, which, he says, is better for the long-term health
of the state.
"What we do is to ask participants not to take
positions but rather to talk about interests and values," he says.
"If we do that, I think we may find positions that fit the interests and
values of people who thought that they disagreed completely. I think there are
issues where people need to understand why they disagree. This will be an
opportunity to learn those answers."
Finding common ground
Dutton is uniquely positioned to understand the
importance of finding common ground with regard to health care. As author of Differential Diagnoses, a sharp,
comparative study of national health care systems, Dutton clearly understands how
health care policy impacts a citizenry. As he surveys the current situation in
the United States, Dutton notes the potential economic impacts that health care
policy might have—an inability to move
forward with health care reform, he says, could cripple the country in many
"You can't have a country where between 25 and 45%
of the people are job-locked, and can't leave jobs because of a pre-existing
condition," he says. "You can't have a growing economy—or a
productive economy—if people are looking first and foremost based on health
insurance rather than on education or on their skills and innate talents. In
other words, a would-be Bill Gates won't leave a job making widgets—even though
he's thought of a better widget—because his son has type 1 diabetes. That's why
health care reform is so important."
Dutton’s ability to cross academic disciplines has proved
helpful to a broad range of students at Northern Arizona University, teaching
courses in history and health sciences. Ultimately, however, Dutton feels that
he make the greatest difference by combining his twin passions, and injecting a
historical perspective into discussions surrounding health care.
"What I like to say is that other health
care systems didn't have a 'big bang'," he says. "As knowledgeable as
many of the participants [in the health care debate] are, they often don't have
that historical view that health care systems didn't start with big bangs. We
need to understand that the process is slow and plodding. It's hard work to get
this right, and there have to be political compromises made. There needs to be
some hard work going forward, where people are listening to one another and
coming to agreements."