A DANISH STUDENT’S PERSPECTIVES ON HEALTHCARE

Denmark's Largest Hospital

By Param Bhatter
Staff Writer

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, will face multiple challenges during its implementation over the next few years. The act is attempting to increase affordability and quality of health insurance, expand public health coverage and mandate similar coverage rates for those with preexisting conditions, in what is often portrayed as a collective effort to socialize healthcare. Even though the United States is far from a fully subsidized healthcare system, there is much to learn going forward if this goal is to be met. Denmark, where the social healthcare system has overcome adversities and flourished, is a rather interesting place to look to as an example. In Prospect’s exclusive interview with a Danish international exchange student, Peter Hjorth Vindum revealed his views on the benefits and issues the Danish healthcare system has faced.

Peter began by describing an overview of the Danish healthcare system. Fully subsidized by the government, there is truly only one hospital system that operates over the entire country. These hospitals treat all Danish citizens completely free of charge, regardless of their age, preexisting medical conditions or employment. Because of this centralization of healthcare, the overall system runs more efficiently; for example, the centralized infrastructure allows faster patient data transfer. While this seems to work extremely well in Denmark, it is important to note that Obamacare takes a different approach by focusing on increasing competition between providers, as this is expected to cause the overall quality of healthcare to rise. Even though allowing citizens to compare and select the best insurance providers is currently a valid strategy for accomplishing the goals of the ACA, in the future it may also be in America’s best interest to centralize the system for total efficiency, as Denmark has done.

Peter then described some of the issues that have plagued the healthcare system in Denmark for the past couple of years, and what the government has done to combat these problems. Peter argued that the worst part of having a centralized healthcare system is that treatment is often inaccessible in rural parts of Denmark, as all hospitals and most outpatient clinics are located in cities or suburban areas. People often have to drive up to 50 miles for a weekly checkup, or even further for access to surgical treatments. To counteract this problem, the Danish government has been focusing on developing more outpatient clinics and on increasing the number of emergency care centers in rural areas. While not all treatment types are available for patients at these outpatient clinics, patients don’t have to encounter long ambulance lines and waits at the emergency rooms.

One of the unsolved issues that still remains for Danish citizens’ concerns the quality of care at these mega-hospitals. One major issue is overcrowding at hospitals, creating long waits for procedures in cases that are not immediately life threatening. Hospitals are usually fully booked, with patients sharing rooms and being rushed out as soon as possible. Additionally, there are long waiting lines for surgeries, often more than a month, and patients are forced to cope with their problems while they wait. However, Peter claims that this trend is increasingly accepted as the norm, as people understand that it is impossible to have excellent, individualized care for every single citizen. No matter the socio-economic status of the patients, the facility and doctors that treat them are the same. This equality is what drives the system effectively and allows it to work with minimal issues.

If America looks to move forward in improving the overall quality of life for all of its citizens, healthcare must be of the utmost political importance. In Denmark, Peter says, the healthcare system is considered to be sacred. Just as in the United States, fiscal issues and deficit spending plague Denmark continuously. However, the Danish citizens and their government refuse to even touch the healthcare portion of the budget, which in turn leads to better treatment and care throughout the country. Obamacare is projected to decrease the national deficit by cutting down on overhead spending in various areas of healthcare, if the ACA is enacted as written. Now that we have instituted the ACA, we will only have to wait and see if this actually will lead to better quality healthcare with less debt, which at best could even outdo the Danish healthcare system’s successes.

Image by Karen Mardahl

BLACHMAN: A TV SHOW’S CONTROVERSIAL DESEXUALIZATION OF THE FEMALE BODY

By Rebecca Benest
Staff Writer

If you live in Denmark, you might turn on the publically funded television station “DR2,” and find yourself faced with a naked woman accompanied by two men conversing about her various physical attributes. But in the event that you haven’t kept up to date with Danish television, this new show, “Blachman,” has caused quite the international buzz.

Named after the creator, the premise of the show is to bring naked women on screen where they stand silently, allowing Blachman and a male guest comment on their body. While this show is definitely a chauvinistic display, it also brings up several discourses on body image and sexualization of the female body in a new, although potentially offensive, method.

The show’s namesake, Thomas Blachman, was a previous host of Denmark’s “X Factor” and is commonly called the “Simon Cowell of Denmark,” known for his regular stream of negative comments. Blachman, however, has a different angle for his new show, as his stated purpose is to get “men discussing the aesthetics of a female body without allowing the conversation to become pornographic or politically correct.” To do this, he brings of women of all ages, shapes, and sizes onto the show, in order to “revise women’s view of men’s view of women.”

The purported message of the show, however, will probably never be seen amid the hailstorm of comments and criticism following the its start. Knud Romer, a Danish author, calls it “a claustrophobic strip club which only serves to cement classic concepts of male dominance,” while Dr. Christian Jessen responds, “are naked women that shocking and shameful? Lets have a debate!”

This is the main debate “Blachman” brings about, that while it appears to be a pornographic display of chauvinistic ideals, it may also be illuminating the unnecessary stigma we place on the naked body and political correctness.

The hypocrisy of the show itself adds to this debate. The introduction states, “between pornography on the one hand and politically correct puritanism on the other side, the poetry is lost.”

Despite this, later on in the show Blachman seems to lose this poetry he speaks so highly of, with statements such as, “Now, I’ve always been an ass man. Would you mind turning around for a moment? Very animated nipples. How does that pussy work for you?” Statements like this are exactly what angers viewers and shows Blachman to be a misogynist.

As admittedly offensive as the show is, it brings up interesting issues of body image. The women on the show are not embarrassed to be there, nor do they avoid eye contact with the judges—some even smiling overbearingly as the judges comment on their bodies. These women don’t view themselves negatively, which is a “requirement” to be on the show, regardless of age or weight.

The body confidence the women on “Blachman” seem to have is not seen often, and is something that many girls and women today seem to have a problem with. The Dove Real Beauty Campaign, which recently took over social media, thought up an interesting experiment: through drawings based on oral descriptions, see how women describe themselves in comparison to how others describe them. The results were shocking: the pictures, when posed next to each other, were drastically different, and in some cases the way the woman described herself was almost unrecognizable. The way we view ourselves ultimately dictates our lifestyle, and as feminist Laura Fraser writes, “we need to protest those standards more demonstrably, reassure ourselves that we’re good and worthwhile human beings.”

“Blachman” also brings up the sexualization of the female body, which is seen drastically differently across nations. When I was 16, for example, I was at a spa in Berlin with an aunt and was shocked when I was told that clothes were not allowed inside. Terrified, I wrapped my towel around me as tightly as I could and went outside. Men and women were sitting, talking, in the saunas and pools seemingly oblivious to their nakedness. While I was utterly embarrassed, I soon became used to the environment and was almost relieved at the way bodies were not judged or micromanaged. You did not have to cover yourself, you weren’t labeled; it was just a body.

While this view is definitely more common in Europe than it is in America, and while the crude comments made on “Blachman” are unmistakably offensive, it does start to take away the stigma of the naked body by talking about the women without sexual or pornographic connotations. The documentary “Miss Representation” takes on the sexualization of women in the media and offers a solution through education and empowerment. Filmmaker Jackson Katz states, “people learn more from media than any other single source of information,” and the representations in the media affect how we view others and ourselves.

The immense power held by the TV shows and movies we watch, the magazines we read, even the songs we listen to, can dictate our views of the world without us even being aware of it and, while “Blachman” is not necessarily empowering these women, there is something the message: it is just a body. We should be able to talk about them without having to worry about being too sexual or politically correct.

Photo by Charlotte Astrid