RI PowerPlayer: Dr. Michael Fine
Monday, March 03, 2014
You gave your first State of the State this week. In recent years, what have been the major changes you’ve seen in health issues –and concerns--facing Rhode Islanders?
The economy! And not enough pride in our strong communities, which is what is unique about Rhode Island. In order for there to be optimal health, and equal life chances for all Rhode Islanders, we need to have healthy functional families and communities made up of people who take care of one another, and who participate in the democratic process. We have an immediate serious concern about drug and alcohol addiction and drug overdose death that we need to come together to address right away.
Where do you see the opportunities for the State to achieve gains in public health?
Our most significant opportunities are to eliminate smoking, and develop a system of primary care practices that provide all Rhode Islanders, and all Rhode Island communities, with world class primary care. Getting world class primary care to all Rhode Islanders will allow us to improve the public’s health while reducing medical care cost, which in turn will allow us to invest in education, safe and healthy housing, the environment and safe streets, which turn out to be the things that matter most for health. Our other “opportunities” (though emergency is a better word) is addressing drug overdose death. We also can and should be the first state in the nation to end new cases of HIV, which is what our Getting to Zero campaign is working hard at.
What are the biggest challenges facing Rhode Island in making these possible?
First, the imagination. We’ve never seen a health care system (what we have is best described as a wealth extraction system) so it’s hard to imagine one; and without being able to imagine a health care system, it’s hard to advocate for one. The second major challenge is the enmeshed interests who profit from things as they are and are trying very hard to prevent change –tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies, industrial food producers, even health care facilities and health professionals. Change is hard. But the status quo has completely failed. Our medical wealth extraction system is draining the state and nation dry, and making optimal health for all impossible.
What would you like Rhode Islanders to know, in terms of resources at HEALTH, that they should take advantage of?
We have the most mission-driven organization in Rhode Island – 450 people and hundreds of volunteers, totally focused on protecting the health and safety of Rhode Islanders. Rhode Islanders should call us or come to our website first, whenever they have a health related question, a concern about a health professional’s practice, a worry about the safety of a health care facility, or the safety of their food or water. We speak English and Spanish as well as many other languages.
What is their plan to reduce the cost of health insurance in Rhode Island by 30 percent or more, and use affordable health insurance as a driver for our economy?
Tell us something nobody knows about you.
I cut wood and write fiction on weekends. I’ve had a beard since I was 19. I like to ride old Hondas on back country roads, and yes, I wear a helmet.
Martin Luther King; Jack Geiger, MD; Bernard Lown, MD; Governor Lucius Garvin, MD; Jack Cunningham, MD; and Moses, not necessarily in that order.
War and Peace. Really, I reread it every few years.
Best place to eat in Rhode Island?
Cindy’s Diner in Scituate. Bob and Timmy’s on Federal Hill.
If you weren’t Director of HEALTH, what would you be?
Writing fiction in Venice or in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, and/or practicing medicine part time in a Neighborhood Health Station, the VA or the ACI.
How do you go about staying healthy?
I cut, haul and bring in 15 cords of wood a year. I’m outside ½ an hour to an hour every day and 10 – 12 hours on weekends. I drink water from a glass, and try to avoid simple carbohydrates in favor of fresh fruits and vegetables, but I’m a stress eater and not as good as I’d like to be. When I’m not working 11 hour days I like to fast a day or two a week.
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