Baby boomers often get blamed for a lot of what's wrong with health care today — mostly for things that are out of our control. Yes, as we've aged, our share of utilization and costs is getting proportionately bigger. Without a doubt, that will continue to grow as we move into senior citizenship and many of us inevitably acquire multiple chronic conditions. And, yes, Medicare is taking an enormous and growing bite out of the federal budget as 10,000 boomers reach the eligibility age of 65 every day.
But who among us wouldn't prefer to grow old minus the ailments — and the need for costly medical care — that come with it? And what boomer wouldn't dearly love to see Congress finally make the hard decisions to maintain Medicare's viability?
While there are few things we can do to impact "big picture" health care in a significant way — other than exercise our bodies, our power at the ballot box, and, as health care professionals, our ability to influence the public — there are certain limited areas in which we can and should step up our responsibility. One of those involves organ donations.
Did you know that 64 percent of organ, eye and tissue transplants last year were performed on Americans over 50 years of age? But that folks in that age group accounted for only 32 percent of the donors? A Gallup poll found that a quarter of Americans over 50 believe they're too old to register as donors.
We need to correct that flawed thinking and change those numbers.
Nearly 115,000 Americans are waiting for an organ at any given time and 18 people will die each day waiting for a transplant.
As HHS' Howard Koh, M.D., said last week, "Imagine how many more lives we could save if the majority of the more than 99 million Americans 50 years old or older signed up to give the gift of life."
Toward that end the Health Resources and Services Administration has launched a campaign to encourage adults over 50 to register as organ donors. The campaign involves print and online media reports and brochures in English and Spanish.
For its part, the national Donate for Life alliance encourages everyone, including health care professionals of a certain age, to sign themselves up as donors immediately and to encourage their older patients, friends and family members to do the same.
This is one aspect of health care where we boomers really can make a difference.
For more about HRSA's campaign, click here.
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