Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a nutrition conference at an NGO in the City of Dolores, Hidalgo, which is a half hour drive from San Miguel de Allende…my home town. At the end of the presentation, the speaker, who is also a friend of mine, asked the question: “How can we remove darkness from a room?” He then gave the obvious answer, “just turn on the light!” You can´t remove the darkness by simply filling up buckets with it and tossing it out of the window. It won´t work. Darkness is just the absence of light. Turn on the light and, “voila!”, the darkness disappears. He followed this with another question, “How can we remove diseases?” The audience pondered, until the answer came…“by turning on health!” That example impressed me.
On the drive back to San Miguel I couldn´t get that thought out of my head. It´s true. If we had optimal health, diseases, especially chronic diseases, would rarely occur. This is a fact in the healthiest populations on the planet. I then thought of the following analogy: If you see a pile of garbage and dozens of flies hovering around it, how would you get rid of the flies? One solution is to get a can of raid and spray the flies. That would work…but for how long? If you don´t remove the original cause, which is the pile of garbage, flies will eventually return. To a large extent, the medical profession has been set up to mainly focus their efforts and finances on killing the flies (the disease) and, to a much lesser extent, on removing the garbage (the cause). This is done by 1) constantly coming up with new pills…with their accompanying side effects, 2) applying invasive medical procedures such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery and 3) creating state of the art medical equipment for testing and screening different cancers even though none of these screening techniques have been shown to reduce overall mortality. This has been going on for decades and yet, what are the results? We´re getting sicker and sicker, fatter and fatter and poorer and poorer, as the health care industry, saps us of our savings. In the United States, more than a trillion dollars is spent annually on medical care…twice as much as our nearest “competitor.” Yet, on any list of the world´s healthiest countries, the U.S. doesn´t even appear within the top 30.
TRANSFORM DISEASE CARE INTO HEALTH CARE…THROUGH EDUCATION
From my perspective, the way things are now, the proper name should be the “disease care system” instead of the “health care system.” Why? Because treating the symptoms of disease, instead of the causes, is what the medical industry is primarily focused on. After all, there´s no money in food, even though 80% of chronic diseases are caused by poor diet (loaded with meat, dairy, fish, oil, sugar, processed and junk foods) as well as poor lifestyle habits (i.e., lack of exercise, excess stress, smoking, alcohol). If the medical profession was really interested in health care, then disease prevention would be a major focus. And if prevention was the main focus then the education of the public would become a priority. Imagine if a big chunk of those 3 trillion dollars was spent on prevention, in the form of education on a massive scale, beginning during preschool and ending long after the education provided by medical and dietetic schools. By simply providing honest information about 1) the lack of effectiveness and downside of commonly prescribed pills, screenings and aggressive treatments and 2) the positive effectiveness of healthy lifestyle changes, in preventing and reversing diseases, the medical community could literally save millions of lives every year. They did that during the latter part of the 20th century when they connected cigarettes to cancer. Now, considering the dire health situation, especially in the West, there should be a sense of urgency, within the medical profession, to not only make the connection between the foods we eat and chronic diseases but to share that information with the people…empowering them to make the right choices that will “turn on their health.”