A new documentary about our health care system just premiered at Sundance, the largest independent film festival in the US. Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke outlines the many problems with health care in a dramatic, compelling way, with beautiful footage and great characters. The best part are the stories of solutions in the film’s second half. Dr. Don Berwick, Head of Medicare and Medicaid from 2010-2011, who is featured in the film and was present at the Q&A said the film provided a needed vision of “how good our health care could be.”
We meet Dr. Dean Ornish at his Preventive Medicine Institute in California and learn about his research into how lifestyle changes may reverse heart disease and early cancer. He spent almost two decades trying to convince Medicare to pay for his lifestyle programs and finally succeeded a few years ago (read an article about it here). Dr. Andrew Weil is training physicians in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona. In his model, patients and providers are partners in the healing process. We see this come to life in several scenes in the film as Dr. Erin Martin, a primary care physician, works with patients at community health centers in Oregon. These are just a few examples of programs the film explores. Other interviewees include Shannon Brownlee, medical journalist, Dr. Steven Nissan of the Cleveland Clinic and General David Fridovich of the US Special Forces, among others.
I’m eager to follow Escape Fire as it moves out into the world. What role will it play in the many efforts to reform our broken system? How will it help generate conversations and move us towards action and impact? The film did generate a lively post-screening discussion where audience members couldn’t wait to share their own health (or health care) stories to the panel and assembled crowd. For more info read the Variety Review.
Senior Fellow Hannah Rosenzweig, MPH is in snowy Park City, Utah reporting on films at Sundance 2012 for the Center for Health, Media & Policy.