Healthcare Lessons from FDR

I just watched the wonderful HBO film on DVD titled Warm Springs  with my parents on a quiet Friday night. Joseph Sargent’s direction of witing by Margaret Nagle is joined by very fine acting by Kenneth Branagh as Franklin Delanoe Roosevelt and Cynthi Nixon’ fine portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt. Numerous other good performances make it an exceptional piece of work and that includes the Kathy Bates portrayal of the full-time pgysical therapist at Warm Springs. This film is titled for the hotel and spa in Georgia which FDR visited on the recommendation of a friend and then ended up buying and converting into a full service regular facility for providing warm water therapy to those stricken by polio.

I was impressed by this movie’s excellent and humane treatment of a period and aspect of FDR’s life which was largely hidden while he was president and has been slow to emerge. I knew many of the broad facts and the movie was consistent with those brad facts and therefore I felt the odds were the wrting was farily historical. His experience as Secretary of the Navy and in other fields of endeavor had already shaped him. But to a significant degree his struggle in this healthcare question shaped his later behavior in the Presidency and the character he brought to those issues,

While a graduate student at Louisiana State University Iwas privileged to write a review of Pare Lorentz’s posthumously published memoirs FDR’s Moviemaker: Memoirs and Scripts and to read carefully and write about the life of the man who made documentary films for FDR. This man did make films about healthcare and the issues of healthcare reform. However he never made a film about Warm Springs even though FDR died there. I think that the shame of illness, deformity or disease cannot just be lightly dismissed. We must prefer health to sickness in oder to remain sane. But I looked at the movie this evening and simply felt more convinced than ever that the autonomy and empowerment of the struggle were just as important as anything else about the Warm Spring stories. We need a healthcare plan that enrgizes and allows all people to struggle and work hard for their health and wellness. We certainly cannot afford to make it easy to do everything anyone would like to do. But we can help the brave to struggle and be enlightened by the fires of their courage. We must not allow human beings to be reduced on ly to file numbers and entries on actuarial tables when we are trying to understand all of what  human health means and how we are to care about promoting that health and wellness.

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