Film sets “escape fires” to fix health care system

AUSTIN, Texas – The part-educational/part call-to-action documentary, “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare,” was recently shown here on the campus of the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. The national lobby organization, the Young Invincibles, came to the campus April 3 to screen the award-winning film, as a part of the school’s East West Forum, where health professionals of multiple modalities come together to discuss pressing issues in the realm of health care.

Young Invincibles’ Erin Hemlin introduced the film, explaining that the showing is in honor of public health week. The organization is a legislative voice for the so-called “young invincibles,” the 18-34 year-old Americans without health insurance, who think their age negates a need to have health care or be engaged in the health care reform process.

“Escape Fire,” featured at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, received “honors” at the 2012 AFI Silverdocs. The documentary features Dr. Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Wendell Potter, former executive at insurance giant Cigna, explaining the “disease management system,” where health care providers spend minimal time with patient care, instead they are forced to deal with a patchwork of insurers, facilities and practitioners. The film includes the lives of health care professionals struggling to provide long-term solutions for patients that are not of value to the current disease management apparatus, including Drs. Dean Ornish and Andrew Weil, whose work challenges the status quo of the corporate-dominated disease management system. Ornish has a medical practice emphasizing dietary interventions for preventing and curing disease. He has successfully treated medical conditions perceived as untreatable by the disease management system. Weil runs a fellowship program at the University of Arizona to support and transform health care by providing doctors additional training in patient-centered care.

Following the film showing, AOMA Professors Raja Mandayam and John Finnell provided further comments. Raja is a member of London’s Royal College of Physicians since 1974 and has held a number of consultant posts in England, India, Papua New Guinea, and Saudi Arabia. He said he never got a medical license within the United States, because the system is so corrupted by corporate influences. In his pharmacology classes, he stresses the potential side effects of medications, because patients (and medical students) are generally uninformed of them. Finnell, who holds a Masters of Science from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology and is a doctor of naturopathic medicine, pointed out that the film did not address the health concerns of the American diet. With rising incidences of cancer and diabetes, there is a correlation between unhealthy diets and illness. He also pointed out that many corporate-brand processed foods are, by design, intended to create addiction to them and distaste for healthier unprocessed foods.

After the film, Hemlin pledged that next year the Young Invincibles would return to Texas to galvanize the underrepresented “young invincibles” in state and federal politics.

Movie review

“Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare”

Directed by Susan Frömke, Matthew Heineman

2012, 95 min., PG-13

Photo: Scene from the “Escape Fire” documentary (via