Unique Multidisciplinary Approach to Addressing Root Causes

I just spent a terrific week in Budapest, Hungary assisting with a unique approach to dealing with problems of the youth culture.  As we know, social issues often morph into health problems.  Smoking, underage drinking, and drug use are largely social activities that bring health consequences.  Teenage dangerous sexual activity leads to many health-related problems.  Additionally, by their own admission, Hungarians have a generally pessimistic worldview, which is certainly understandable given their political history.  Their pessimism often filters down to the country’s youth and contributes to social and mental health challenges.

Between October 10 and October 17, I joined 19 other Americans in a special outreach to high school and college students sponsored by FEK, the Hungarian operation of a faith-based organization called Cru.  “FEK” is the acronym for the Hungarian words that stand for “Youth on the Threshold of Life.”  Over 20 years ago, FEK developed a revolutionary multi-disciplinary curriculum with input from educators, members of the justice system, church leaders, and others who work with teenagers.  This extensive curriculum deals with many of the social, interpersonal, and spiritual issues young people deal with.  Literally millions of Hungarian students have benefitted from this program.

Our role as Americans was to interact with Hungarian high school and college students, building bridges and helping them consider ways to address their social, personal and spiritual needs.  Additionally, we participated in part of a conference FEK hosted for youth leaders from around the country.  The excitement among the educators, church leaders and others was palpable and extremely encouraging.

Although healthcare was not the major focus of our week, as indicated above, dealing with the root causes of health problems can often minimize them down the road.   

As a special bonus, I had the chance to address a group of students preparing for various medical careers:  physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, nurses, and others.  They were eager to learn about the US healthcare system.  I shared the stage with a husband and wife physician team.  The wife is a pediatrician, and the husband is a pediatric surgeon who has successfully completed several operations to separate conjoined twins.  His slides were jaw-dropping. 

My role was to provide an overview of the extremely complex US healthcare system, pointing out some of our many challenges.  And I was able to tee up the physicians’ section by saying that despite our many problems, we have a spectacular system that allows us to perform nearly miraculous procedures that forever change patients’ lives for the better.

Besides my healthcare work, I am also a professional musician – blues, bluegrass and rock harmonica.  As an extra-special treat for me, I got to play with a student band at a Wednesday night student outreach event.  We did one hard-core blues number, two Mumford and Sons rock tunes, and a souped-up version of “Amazing Grace.”

All-in-all, it was a profitable week that I believe will yield positive results for years to come.  What a privilege to support students in a country six time zones away!