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It’s not surprising that women are still most responsible for figuring out what to do about family healthcare problems. Studies suggest that we make about 80 percent of healthcare decision for our families and are most likely to be caregivers when a family member falls sick.

From day one, we usually find the pediatrician for our kids and take them to the doctor when the need arises, even though fathers, partners, and others play an increasingly larger role. But the most important health choices for this generation of children and ourselves are the ones we, collectively and individually, make in the grocery store, in the fast-food line, in after-school activities, and in the public sphere of our own communities.

There has never been a more important time to understand what health and healthcare is really about. Yet it’s never been harder to figure it out, amidst the barrage of confusing and often misleading commercial product advertising and the political rhetoric that is particularly loud this election season.

I’ve been writing about health and medicine for 35 years and served as the medical science advisor for ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, an award-winning documentary being released this Friday, October 5, in select theatres/on iTunes/Video on Demand.  My husband and I have also raised two sons, one of whom, Matthew Heineman, is the film’s co-director.

Here are five important messages I take away from the film that are most relevant to you and your families:

  1. We have a disease-care system, not a true healthcare system. Three-fourths of healthcare costs go to treating chronic illnesses like heart disease and some cancers that could have been prevented with healthier lifestyles.
  1. More high-tech medicine isn’t necessarily better—and may be even be hazardous to your health and pocketbook. Ask your doctor whether each proposed test and treatment is really necessary. And please don’t push for drugs you see promoted on TV.
  1.  Science increasingly shows that the best “medicine” is indeed healthy eating, exercise, stress reduction and group support.  Yet all of the financial incentives are working against these low-tech solutions. Doctors and patients need more time to talk about healthy choices. But as a parent, you are the one who can “prescribe” healthy options for your families.
  1. You can help create change in your own communities.  Join or organize efforts to bring exercise back into the school day; promote safe playgrounds and walking/running paths in your hometown; write a letter to the editor. Become an empowered consumer and patient.
  1. Oh, and try to be a role model yourself. Women utilize more healthcare resources than men, in part because of reproductive services. So try to stay healthy. Schedule exercise, use an online program to monitor your eating habits, and push for wellness programs in your workplace. Try to find some down time. Your children are watching you.

You’ve heard some of this before. But you may not know about the growing movement in the public and private sectors to provide novel programs that support healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to dramatic individual stories, ESCAPE FIRE shows leaders in medicine, business, government, the military and local communities who are pushing for solutions, or ‘escape fires,’ that emphasize innovative, outside-the-box approaches to promote health and wellness.

But to make this work, they need you. We’re all in this together.

Today is ESCAPE FIRE’s Online Day of Action for healthcare. You can join right now by posting this message on your Twitter or Facebook page:

Twitter: PLS RT! Our healthcare system is broken, but we can fix it! See @EscapeFire Oct 5 and #RescueHealthcare

Facebook: Our healthcare system is broken, but we can fix it! On Oct 5, see the most important film of the year ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

Learn more about ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare (opening Oct. 5 in theatres and on iTunes/Video on Demand) and how you can fix our broken healthcare system at

Cristine Russell is an award-winning medical writer, president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, and a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is a medical advisor for ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare and mother of the director Matthew Heineman.

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