One of Arizona’s most distinctive characteristics is that it is a place of seemingly endless opportunities. People come to our great state because they truly believe their lives will be better here. They are driven by the notion that these ‘opportunities’ are available to those who are committed enough to make the journey and call this land home.
While this may be more routinely thought about with reference to mining, ranching, or other industries, health care is also a big part of this story. Paul Dutton at Northern Arizona University recently presented a historical overview of Arizona’s place in “Healthy Aging” as part of a Colton House Policy Dialogue on this topic. He shared how one of Arizona’s first significant in-migrations was healthseekers looking for respite from the environmental and health consequences of the Industrial Revolution.
Symbolic of this, and a major part of Paul’s story, was that the roots of much of Arizona’s health care capacity was a variety of Tuberculosis sanitoriums that were a destination for thousands across the Nation who were stricken with a disease that was among the leading causes of death in the 19th century. Many of Arizona’s early hospitals were, in fact, TB hospitals.
Contrast that with much of the rest of the Nation, where the first hospitals were primarily places where those in society without resources went to die. There was usually little likelihood of what we consider to be treatment through our modern filters, nor expectation of anything but a more humane place to meet one’s end. It was only in the 20th century that a variety of technological discoveries, including antiseptis and anesthesia, got applied and shifted hospitals to a new role – one of treatment, cure and miracles of healing.
Is this just a historical anomaly, or something that has meaning as we look to the future of the health care system and Arizona? One could argue that it is significant, as we are now in a time of reimagining the role of the “H” and the hospital as a place of health improvement, not just a site of illness care. For most places across the Nation, it is a progression from a Place of Death, to a Place of Miracles and now to a Place of Health. This seems an enormous and disruptive shift, especially considering it is happening in the course of a generation.
New technologies are bringing renewed hope about the future of health and health care in Arizona. It is time for us to return to our roots of embracing the Hospital once again as a place of Health. It is an opportunity for us to change how we think about the future of health in Arizona. People want to believe their lives will be better here. We think they’re right!