Positive perspective – Health Failures or Opportunities?

by Edward Henkler on April 28, 2015

A frequent topic on my blog is the importance of a positive focus in life and also in our word choice. The 14-April post was entitled “problem or opportunity.” Building on that theme, I want to share some insights which Dr. Fredric Abramson presented recently to the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group. Fredric is a bit of a Renaissance Man as his bio will make clear:

Dr. Abramson’s background is a rare combination of business, science and technology. He received an A.B. in Mathematical Biology from Penn, a Ph.D. in Human Genetics and Population Planning from Michigan, and he is an MIT Sloan Fellow Masters of Management. He is a patent attorney admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. He advised Federal and State governments on policies regarding alcohol abuse, science experiments in space, nuclear reactor inspector objectivity, and worker’s compensation. For 19 years, Johns Hopkins has engaged Dr. Abramson to teach economics, finance and business to Biotechnology Master’s students. He likewise has a broad spectrum of applied business experience, including his role as President and CEO of AlphaGenics.


He suggests that many of the healthcare challenges which remain unsolved after countless decades are not the product of ignorance but rather a culture of blame. He noted that almost everyone understands that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and that obesity increases the likelihood of adverse cardiac events. In spite of that knowledge, people continue to smoke and fail to manage their weight. His contention is that we focus on the negative and blame people for not “managing” their health better. His preference is to focus on behavioral change by presenting opportunities to improve.

The example I liked best was from his own experience as a professor and speaker. When he has asked people if they were genetically tested that night, would they want to be told they had a 40% higher risk of prostate cancer in men or breast cancer in women (or whatever the genetic screen showed), most were not interested. Then he asks: Based on that same genetic profile, would you want to be told what to eat to reduce your risk of prostate cancer or breast cancer? Invariably, there is widespread interest. That is not to suggest that it is as simple as switching to a positive perspective but it does suggest that people engage much faster and more completely when healthcare maintenance is proposed as an opportunity rather than failing.

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