I haven’t commented on The Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obama Care since it entered the political landscape. The primary reason is because I felt the focus of the discussion was being presented in a divisive way to the American people.
While I believe that health care should be available to all of our citizens, we are still missing the boat—as the focus of the bill is treatment, medical care, rather than health, And therein lies the contradiction that will continue to cause health care costs to spiral out of control, as they have for over 30 years.
We need to add health to the “health care” equation. Study after study has demonstrated, not only the value of prevention, beyond early screening (which is the focus of most of our preventive measures.
If people are given the tools to improve their health, we will save billions of dollars in the US and trillions worldwide. We know what to do, but there is no national agenda as such. Health takes a back seat to disease treatment, and that is one of the great tragedies of our time.
The Limitations and Dangers of Modern Medicine
When I was in medical school, I learned that access to medical treatment was secondary to lifestyle in determining health status. During one of the most memorable lectures I ever heard in medical school, “A Tale of Two Cities,” a guest lecturer on epidemiology (the study of disease trends) described a study by medical economist Victor Fuchs comparing health statistics from Nevada and Utah. Although the study’s participants from the two states were nearly identical in income level, education, and age, the states had strikingly different rates of disease and mortality. The healthier residents were from Utah. Fuchs determined that this could be directly linked to positive lifestyle patterns. The participants from Utah had good diets, exercised regularly, and avoided tobacco, excessive caffeine and alcohol, and drugs. Our lecturer concluded by saying that in the United States, the vast majority of chronic disorders—like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke—can be considered lifestyle diseases. The government has estimated that 85–90 percent of these diseases are preventable.
I was awed as well as confused by this lecture: awed because it showed we do possess the power to control disease, and confused because so little control was being exercised. I eventually developed the opinion that people don’t modify their lifestyles to boost their health to optimum levels because they have excessive faith in the power of medications and surgery to save them from their own poor choices. They give up responsibility for their wellness to their doctors. As Donald B. Ardell asserted in High-Level Wellness, “The single greatest cause of unhealth in this nation is that most Americans neglect, and surrender to others, responsibility for their own health.”
John Knowles, the former president of Rockefeller Foundation, suggested that people have been duped, either accidentally or on purpose. He wrote, “People have been led to believe that national health insurance, more doctors, and greater use of high-cost hospital-based technologies will impart health. Unfortunately, none of them will.” It never made sense to me why we would depend on medications, which have the risk of significant side effects, when other choices are available and more important. My confusion about our choices was reinforced by experiences I had in hospitals.
Almost thirty years ago, the Government Accountability Office (then still called the General Accounting Office) estimated that 70 percent of the procedures used by doctors were ineffective. Coronary artery bypass surgery, for instance, has been used to treat heart disease (the leading cause of death in the United States) since the 1970s. A 1982 study conservatively estimated that at least one-seventh of all such surgeries could have actually been postponed or avoided altogether, which means that 25,000 operations per year back then were unnecessary. Life was clearly prolonged by the procedure in only 11 percent of all cases. More recent research has determined that the vast majority of these surgeries, compared to other medical treatments, provided no benefit.
Medical Treatments Do Not Address the Root Cause
It’s my opinion that the situation hasn't changed since then. In fact, it’s probably worse. We are spending more money in the US per capita for health care services, but our health status ranks 27th in the world! Primarily because we are not preventing the preventable illnesses, by providing Americans with the information and incentives to improve their daily behaviors that dramatically impact their health and well-being.
Today, in the United States, coronary artery bypass surgery is performed twice as often as it is in Canada and Australia and four times as often as it is in western Europe, despite similar population profiles. This means that American doctors are more apt to recommend this particular treatment, whereas their counterparts in other nations are less inclined to do so—and with good reason: recent studies continue to find no significant difference in the outcomes from surgery and other medical treatments in the vast majority of patients with heart disease.
Lifestyle modification is a better way. There’s overwhelming evidence, that tragically remains ignored regarding the value of lifestyle interventions, involving a wide range of conditions. For example, Dean Ornish, M.D., a holistically oriented research cardiologist and author, demonstrated a highly effective approach to reversing coronary heart disease based on more than two decades of peer-reviewed research funded by the National Institutes of Health and several foundations. It consists of a major nutritional component to lower cholesterol, along with exercise, group support, and stress reduction. Many studies of chronic diseases show similar long-term benefits for patients than surgery.
His most recent research, just reported a few weeks ago, conducted with Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., discovered that life style changes actually improves the condition of our DNA, through reversing damage caused by stress.
Is Medical Treatment The Leading, Hidden Cause of Death?
Several studies have highlighted the various dangers of modern medicine. These include the approval of unsafe drugs, the hazards of diagnostic technologies, the high incidence of unnecessary procedures, and the inhumane and frequently stressful way patients are treated. These dangers were compiled and reported in an article called “Death by Medicine.” Certain extreme treatments, such as chemotherapy or a stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit, can actually cause post-traumatic stress disorder in those who undergo them.
What makes the situation so outrageous is that the healthcare industry has traditionally encouraged the American public to be passive consumers—to wait for developing technologies and new drugs rather than to accept the role they play in the expression of their own health and the origin of disease. The research clearly indicates that when consumers take responsibility for their health and actively participate in lifestyle modifications and decision making, they usually don’t get as sick in the first place, and when they do get sick, they heal faster.
The truth is that modern medicine has made minimal progress with its purely physiological approach to healing, except in the treatment of infectious diseases and of acute and traumatic illnesses. In fact, many see that technology has played a significant role in disrupting the cornerstone of the practice of medicine: the doctor-patient relationship. There is an increasing awareness that our medical system—contrary to its mandate—is actually the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. Each year, 7.5 million unnecessary medical and surgical procedures are performed. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization every year is 8.9 million. The total number of iatrogenic deaths (those inadvertently caused by a physician, by surgery or other treatment, or by a diagnostic procedure) is calculated at close to 784,000 a year. The number of people having adverse drug reactions to prescribed medicine while in the hospital is 2.2 million a year. And this doesn't even consider the adverse reactions that take place outside hospitals, which aren't officially recorded.
I truly believe that helping people maintain and improve their health, i.e., self-care is the future of health care. It is cost effective, safe, and reaps profound benefits. Until we do that we are whistling Dixie, and doing a great disservice. Your health, I believe is your greatest wealth. What are you doing right now to promote your health and well-being?
Source: Superhealing Introduction