Why Our Health Matters
Dr. Andrew Weil has a way of getting your attention. With book titles including the bestseller 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, the renowned integrative medicine doctor and founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, has made it his life mission to help transform health. And, now, with his latest release, Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine that Can Transform Our Future, he’s tackling health policy itself.
It isn’t too surprising that Americans spend more on health care than any other country. But, what is incredibly surprising is the lack of correlation between this expense and positive health outcomes. You’d think that spending more money would result in better health. Not so. According to The World Health Organization, America ranks 37th in the world for health outcomes—on par with Serbia. Serbia? Seriously?
Although Weil spends considerable time in his new book discussing the problem with our current system; with the big pharma industry in general; and with our current for-profit medical model, the heart of his message is more about what our current health care system isn’t—and that is preventative. Says Weil, “we’re very good at treating the consequences of heart disease [for instance], but we’re not so good at preventing it.” We need to put our focus (including the education and training of our doctors) on health promotion and prevention as opposed to exclusively disease intervention. And prevention, a.k.a. adapting healthy behaviors and lifestyles, is on us. As Weil argues, if we really want to reform health care, we also need to take more responsibility for our own health—as individuals. “Health care” is much cheaper before one gets sick, so why not try everything in one’s power to keep it that way?
Weil masterfully weaves together all of the necessary components of true health promotion, including the obvious—education—as well as the not so obvious, but critical tenets: having city planners create communities that are walk-able, increasing physical activity and decreasing environmental pollution; making healthy food more affordable and available, thereby supporting local farmers and decreasing disease. Ultimately he stresses upon relying less on high-tech medical intervention and more on “low-touch, high-touch” medicine—the type of medicine where a doctor’s visit lasts an hour, and afterward you discover 4 new ways to help with your anxiety (over healthcare, no doubt)—without the assistance or reliance on any expensive pharmaceutical drugs. We need to look at healthcare as a system—not a linear system, but a circular one—a system that acknowledges that everything has the potential to contribute to or diminish one’s health.
This book should be on everyone’s must-read list not only because it is timely, but also because it puts medicine back where it needs to be—in our hands.—M.B.W.