health care experts ponder ways to reduce medical
spending by improving quality, they have people like
Alvieno Stinson in mind.
Sandy Springs man has been living with kidney
failure since 2000. It’s an expensive condition
requiring dialysis treatments three times a week.
But there’s a good chance that Stinson could still
be working in technology and developing his interest
in broadcasting had the nation’s approach to
health care focused more on prevention than
“There have to
be prevention methods, so people don’t find out
when it’s too late,” said Stinson, who takes
every opportunity to let people know that ignoring a
painless condition can change their lives forever.
A decade ago,
Stinson was married, with kids, had a house in the
north Fulton suburbs, a job working as a systems
analyst and an interview-format show on public
access TV. He also had high blood pressure. But it
wasn’t something he worried about, until he
started gaining weight.
“When I did go
to the doctor, I was in end-stage renal failure,”
he said. “The doctor was telling me, ‘Your
kidneys will be failing in six months.’ And I was
thinking — you must be out of your mind.”
At that point,
the damage was already done. The condition could not
be reversed. Before long, he was on disability, on
dialysis and watching his career and marriage fall
He tells people
now, whenever he gets the chance, that this probably
didn’t have to happen to him — or to thousands
The gurus of
health care economics agree. Emory University’s
Ken Thorpe, an expert on health care spending, says
80 percent of health care spending goes to care for
20 percent of the population. And many of those
people have conditions that are largely preventable.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,
asthma, heart disease — conditions that can be
prevented or controlled — are all major drivers of
rising Medicare costs, Thorpe said. Most patients
with kidney failure — including Stinson — are
covered by Medicare.
The portion of
Medicare recipients with diabetes alone has doubled
since 1987 to 22 percent. Thorpe has estimated that
billions of health care dollars could be saved if
the government simply set up weight loss programs
for baby boomers in their early 60s who have higher
than normal blood glucose levels, which often
develops into full diabetes.
Stinson wrote a
short book, “Beyond the Barriers,” to help other
people learn to live with kidney failure. And
Stinson said he’s done just that by building a
solid relationship with his family and focusing on a
new professional calling. He earned a master’s
degree in public administration and nonprofit
management in 2011. He is now working on a Ph.D.
with the goal of building an organization called BTB
Global to help eliminate health disparities. He said
African-Americans especially need to be urged to
ignore myths and fears about medicine and get the
screenings they need to stay as healthy as possible.
productive individual, when they have kidney failure
and are in stage 4, many times they can’t deliver
the way they used to,” Stinson said. “If we did
these preventive things, a valuable citizen could
continue contributing to society and their
community. This is what we need.”