My kind of health reform


The tell-tale sign we’re entering into the cold weather, holiday gift-buying season here in the Twin Cities is evident with increased airplay of certain commercials. One in particular, a female voice echoes in my ear, long after turning off the radio or television, informing everyone: “What you do in your bedroom, is our business!”

Admittedly, my thoughts teeter between “great” and “that’s a little creepy”.

It seems, however, that Fantasy Gifts aren’t the only ones interested my business, your business, and everyone else’s business. Sexual health, well-being, and education is a global concern — not just with regards to pregnancy and disease prevention — but as it relates to our overall health as human beings.

In the 2008 annual report from University of Minnesota’s Program in Human Sexuality, Academic Chair Dr. Eli Coleman notes that sexual health is currently “in the lexicon of public policy makers”. He lauds Latin American and Caribbean Ministers of Health and Education in affirming that “sexual rights” are a “basic human right” and notes that there is recognition that a broad approach to sexual health is derived from much more than condoms and pills.

Sexual health is considered a “basic human right” because health is a “fundamental human right.” And Coleman, addressing how our governmental change in administration has impact on this, says that a shift in the direction of sexual trends can help us all create a sexually healthy world. Tying back into efforts taking place at UMN, the bulwark of this effort, heavily focuses on an understanding of sexual health based on science.

We are clear on recommended daily allowances of certain vitamins and minerals. Science has clearly shown us why we need to stay away from fatty foods and too much alcohol. But I’m not holding my breath for a doctor to tell me how much sex-ercise to partake in to assure my optimum health (or sanity).

Like all issues related to our health, we, as consumers have a responsibility to assure that we are making choices that effect our health positively. Yes, that also includes our sexual health.

Durex condoms recently released results of the second in a five-report series conducted to develop a scientific model for sexual well-being. Among other things, it revealed that on average, here in the United States, we spend approximately 35 minutes from when the foreplay begins to when intercourse ends, 42 percent of people have sexual fantasies, and 54 percent of the population feels their love life lacks excitement.

According to Durex spokes person Jennifer Grizzle, the reason that most Americans aren’t satisfied with their sex lives is because we do not continue sex education past high school. People get into a rut of “this is all I know” out of comfort she says.

How does this relate to health? Let me explain.

Unlike indigenous cultures where rituals serve as a rite of passage to other parts of life, our rituals as Americans are based on cultural norms. Speaking as a female, my palms sweated less when attempting a drivers test at age 16, than going for my first yearly gynecological poke-and-prod about a year later. Then, when I hit 40, my boobs were stuck in a mushing machine and I got my first mammogram.

A male friend recently confided in me that when his plumbing doesn’t work, it’s like a canary in the coal mine since erectile dysfunction is often caused by such things as high blood pressure and diabetes. (The man’s rite of passage ala one’s first prostate exam happens between age 40 and 50).

We, in a sense have healthcare rituals. These healthcare rituals give us a baseline from which to measure our current state of health and assess changes in our health as we age.

The dance of psychology and physiology that takes place in the bedrooms of America are complex. Bored in the bedroom could just be simple boredom. (Possibly due to a pre-existing condition called long-term marriage.)

Or, on the other hand, trouble in the bedroom could be an indicator of illness – ranging from vascular disease to depression. But, overall, science is revealing that sex is good for us, due to a multitude of factors.

Perhaps, if our doctors asked us more questions about our sexual practices it would cut down on the amount of expensive laboratory testing that must be conducted to diagnose certain health conditions. Granted, Viagra sales might decline, but we might be a happier, healthier nation if our M.D.’s cut down on the drugs and gave us a list of toys to purchase or a checklist of places to “just do it” in order to spice up our lives.

And as we look at healthcare reform here in the U.S., I fantasize about my doctor.

“Forget the Valium,” he says “Let me write you a prescription for what you really need…an afternoon in the sunshine with svelte pool boy named Juan.”

As he hands me the prescription, quickly scribbled with illegible scrawl.

“And if you’re still not feeling better,” he says with a sly, all knowing grin, “Give his brother Maurice a try…”