by Dr. Bill Rawls
Last Updated 10/25/16
The statistics are alarming. Despite spending more on healthcare than any country on earth, a whopping 15% of the GNP (only 7% is spent on food), the incidence of chronic disease and cancer has been on a steady rise in America for more than fifty years. Over the past couple of years, average lifespan has actually started to decline. Even with all the money spent, the health of the average American is well below that of other developed countries.
No one would argue that the system is broken, but government, insurance companies, doctors and other third parties seem to be at a loss as to how to fix it. The present focus is reducing costs in a dysfunctional system, rather than redefining the therapeutic model.
Understanding why the system is dysfunctional is relatively simple. Since its earliest beginnings, the medical approach to healthcare has always been retroactive; wait until the patient becomes ill before administering therapy.
This has to do with practicality as much as anything else. Allowing the patient to be passive in the process and intervening directly with drugs and surgery is much easier than encouraging the patient to take an active role in the healing process.
The restriction of therapy to drugs and surgery in modern medicine specifically dates back to 1932. In that year the American Medical Association placed all faith behind a newly flourishing pharmaceutical industry and the budding surgical profession with a decree that all licensed physicians would absolutely limit practice to use of drugs and surgery.
It was, at the time, the most practical way to standardize medical therapy across the country. It also appeared, at the time, that cures for all diseases were just around the corner.
All faith was placed in science; the answers would surely come from a laboratory.
We now know that drugs have only limited ability to cure disease and laboratory science cannot provide all the answers. Drugs can slow progression of disease, reduce symptoms and allow the patient to live a relatively normal life with disease, but drugs alone cannot restore normal health.
Drugs also carry significant potential for toxicity. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 suggested that adverse drug reactions were the fourth leading cause of death.
Similarly, surgery can save lives and dramatically improve life, but also carries associated risks of morbidity and mortality. And the monetary cost of relying solely on these two modalities of therapy, as previously stated, is truly astronomical.
The most cost-effective approach to healthcare is proactive; bring the patient on board in the healing process and prevent disease from happening in the first place. When disease does occur, focus on helping the patient reduce primary causes of disease and encourage natural healing.
Some would argue that it is the best approach, but it is far from being the easiest to administer. Prevention of disease and health restoration requires an active role by the patient; behavioral modification. Modification of destructive behavior is always challenging.
It has taken over fifty years to make the public aware of the hazards of tobacco and still today 25% of the population continues to smoke. In that case, the very powerful tobacco industry was a major impediment to change.
Today, it is the processed food and drug industries preventing change.
Even so, much of the public is ready for a different approach. Because of the internet, information is widely available and most patients want to take a more active role in their personal well-being and in their healthcare choices.
Because of special interests, however, significant change will come from a grassroots effort. Individuals who care intensely about their personal health and healthcare providers who care intensely about the standard of care they provide will lead the way. The first large groups to invest in the concept will be self-insured corporations seeking reduced healthcare costs and improved worker performance.
Ultimately, change can only occur on a large scale when the desired behavior, good health, becomes fashionable.
A company my daughter and I started is a concept designed to expedite this change. Though much information is available, the average person finds the volume of information on healthful behavior modification to be overwhelming and often contradictory. We aim to consolidate credible health information into usable form to make the pursuit of good health practical and doable.