It's been almost five years since we left LA and moved to the South of France, but I still find reasons to be struck by the differences between our two countries, mostly be reading our local paper every morning while having a cup of tea.
This morning, I woke up to the headline, frontpage, bold, LES FRANCAIS PAS TOUS EGAUX FACE AU CANCER, meaning FRENCH PEOPLE NOT ALL EQUAL BEFORE CANCER.
It turns out that, yesterday, French President Sarkozy gave a press conference where he announced a second plan to fight inequalities of treatment for cancer. The newspaper article (in French) is here, but I'll translate some bits and comments below the fold....
FRENCH PEOPLE NOT EQUAL BEFORE CANCER.... My first reaction, as a jaded American, was, I confess, is this news?
I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but don't we take it for granted that all Americans are not equal before any illness? Isn't that the normal status quo, our baseline, as it were? Why is this news in France, I wondered.
My second reaction was, they obviously think this is deeply wrong, they see this as serious problem. Again, I'm a little ashamed to admit that I believe that a great number of our fellow Americans (present company excepted, hopefully), would not only see this inequality as normal, but also somehow "right".
By "right" I don't mean that anyone wishes cancer upon anyone else, but they would consider that such inequality as part and parcel of life, one of life's basic injustices, not a societal problem.
Finally, my third thought was -- and the French takes steps to fix it. Now I have no idea if Mr. Sarkozy's plan is any good or not, but the will behind it is fascinating: people are unequal before cancer = problem = government intervention.
Right now, I can't help feel that the reaction in the US would be (again, present company excepted), "let the cancer folks take care of themselves -- why should I pay for them?"
In France, this is news, this is bad news, and they want to make it better, and everyone takes it for granted that this is the right thing to do.
What an amazing revelation.
Here is a translation of some of the article:
Nicolas Sarkozy presented Monday in Marseille the new government's Cancer Plan which will spend nearly 750 million euros in new spending to primarily reduce inequalities in health.
Couldn't put it better.
To reduce inequalities before that disease [cancer], which should strike 350,000 people in 2009 (+10% in four years), he promised the installation of 74 additional MRI scanners including 39 in the 10 regions with higher cancer rates.
The risk of dying of cancer between ages 30 and 65 is twice higher among blue-collar workers than among white-collar professionals. "How can we accept that?", said the President. "Reducing inequalities will be taken into account in every aspect of the plan," he promised, announcing that 15% of the research budget will be devoted to the study of environmental risks.
The notion that a US politician, today, is going to champion the working class to the alleged detriment of our Overlords would make an excellent science fiction novel.
The 2009-2013 plan follows a previous 2003-2007 Cancer Plan launched by President Jacques Chirac, of which only a third of the 70 then-proposed measures was achieved.
Two thoughts here: obviously, this dreadful Good Samaritan ethic has been going on for a while (snark), and two, even if they don't succeed in everything, at least they have good intentions, which is more than we can say about a goodly 60% of Congress.
Then the article goes on about helping cancer patients with credit and insurance, fighting tobacco use, alcohol, and other causes of cancer, and encouraging healthier lifestyles.
But what struck me the most what that screaming headline, FRENCH PEOPLE UNEQUAL BEFORE CANCER, which spoke volumes about the attitudes towards health care in the two countries.