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A Roadmap for 'Fantastic' Health

Louie Matter engineered his Fantastic Cadillac to travel the country without stopping once. What if we mapped out health strategies and offered employees the tools for a successful healthcare journey?

He had no intentions of braking at traffic lights or stop signs on the roads he traveled in his “Fabulous Cadillac,” a specially engineered vehicle the late Louie Matter jerry-rigged for a 6,320 nonstop trip across the country. He designed and built the perpetual motion machine in the garage of his San Diego auto repair business.

The feat, accomplished more than 70 years ago, required meticulous planning, a team, and a scrutinous mind. Matter analyzed every what-if, logistical scenario and maintenance requirement like changing oil and replacing tires while still in motion.

Matter made advance arrangements for police escorts in towns along the U.S. highway system so he could roll through each without idling for a second. He accomplished the goal and his 1947 Cadillac Fleetwood, now the property of his grandson, has been on display at the San Diego Automotive Museum for the last 25 years.

Matter passed away in 1999 for reasons that had nothing to do with motor vehicle safety.

Throughout his adult life, Matter continuously invented new features to help achieve the monumental trip. Initially, the car was retrofitted for camping with comforts including a chemical toilet and shower, fridge, T.V., kitchen sink and bar. All of these accessories and more were powered by custom batteries with 1,500 ampere hour capacity with an engine-driven generator to charge them.

The modifications grew increasingly complex once Matter set out on a mission to execute the cross-country nonstop journey.

For instance, he developed a system to automatically change the oil every 1,000 miles. A trailer housing a patio for entertaining journalists and the traveling crew included an intercom system to communicate between the car and patio. Retractable platforms attached to the car’s sides allowed for working under the hood and changing tires while in motion. As for the tires, Matter created a hydraulic jack with a wheelbase to allow for removing and replacing tires on the go.

Matter thought of everything.

The trailer also held 230 gallons of gasoline and 15 gallons of motor oil, meaning the team only had to refuel three times on the trip, which was accomplished in airfields—without stopping, of course.

After reading about Matter and his Fabulous Cadillac, I thought about what it might look like if we strategically mapped out an individual’s health from birth through the ages, considering every support required to stay healthy and thrive over a lifetime.

If we took a nonstop approach to monitoring, managing and maintaining our health and wellbeing, how much more “mileage” could we accomplish? What tune-ups could position us to have the type of “Fabulous Body” that is resilient from a physical and mental wellbeing standpoint?

Regular, consistent well checks with a primary care provider can help monitor common conditions, and prevent costly visits to the E.R. that ultimately drive up premium expenses and result in a cascade of appointments with specialists in our increasingly complex healthcare system.

Knowing our numbers—blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol—can help inform better health decisions.

As employers, opening our eyes to this data, knowing our employee population and their risk factors, and considering geographic impacts that are associated with community health can help us provide benefits that truly support our people.

Much like how Matter carefully mapped out his journey and considered how his Fabulous Cadillac would manage every scenario on the road, we can problem-solve health risks specific to our employee groups to strategically deliver benefits that support them and deliver positive outcomes.

For example, within your benefits strategy, identify subpopulations in addition to traditional disease categories to gain insight into regional patterns. Doing so allows for better development and implementation of target clinical and communication programs.

Matter’s vehicle was fully equipped with every tool required for a successful, safe journey. We can offer our employees tools to access community resources so they understand when and where to obtain care.

Above all, if we refocus our perspective about healthcare and benefits and think of our health as a journey, much like Matter did, we will be much better equipped to prevent conditions that are within our control and pave the way for a healthy life.

About Health Action Council 
Health Action Council
 is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid-and large-size employers that enhance human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees. Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the community.

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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