World Health Day
It’s all about bringing
healthcare to everyone.
World Health Day is observed annually to create awareness about health and wellbeing and draws the attention of people from all around the world to highlight important health issues. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website: “more than half of the world’s 7.3 billion people do not receive all of the essential services they need. In terms of financial protection, over 800 million people spend at least 10 percent of their household budgets to pay for health care, and about 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty due to their health expenditures.”
I am wondering how many Americans are accounted for within WHO’s data. With the average insurance deductible being around $3,000, while the average saving account of many Americans is $2,000 (information casually provided by an insurance broker in an effort to sell me a second line of insurance to cover my deductible), many are actually pushed to poverty, if not bankruptcy, because of the way our health care system is provided.
The problem is not new. In his 2007 movie Sicko, director/writer Michael Moore exposed how corporations have corrupted our North American health care system, making it all about profits and not about saving lives.
But is it much with other systems? In France, where the one single payer system has long been put in place and access to health care is mostly free, doctors are regularly marching in the streets to protest their conditions. Who wants to go to years of medical training, just to be turned into five-minute prescription dispensers and see your decisions overturned by insurances? In Switzerland, a new law is being considered where Naturopaths will simply be allowed to replace G.P., a breed officially in danger of extinction.
Whatever their differences, health care systems around the world are all plagued by ever-increasing costs and long waits at hospitals for expensive conventional treatment. Some systems work better than others in terms of reimbursements, accessibility, and coverage, but they are all straining under the pressure of spiraling cost and reduced access. One would think that if there were evidence of a natural product or treatment that could begin to address these problems, it would be embraced by mainstream science and the politicians in charge of our future. Think again: with health care being a multi-billion dollar per year business, it’s no surprise that pharmaceutical companies- whose quest for innovation are solely driven by intellectual property rights- will protect their brands at all costs and decry natural solutions as quackery, even if this blanket rejection of natural treatments screams conflict of interest. To make this worse, in the face of failure, those who are supposed to be accountable for our malfunctioning public health policies will witch-hunt the free thinkers and discoverers who dare defy the laws of money, think outside the box, and, in the end, offer substantial help to humanity.
Meanwhile, patients are becoming more and more empowered and educated. In growing numbers, they are demanding new personalized solutions to replace the old one-size-fits-all approach to medicine. Doctors whose practices are thriving are those who recognize that medicine is a holistic, multifaceted discipline. They value nutrition, psychology, and environmental medicine as part of their medical practices.
Bringing healthcare to everyone is a great idea, a generous one that should be applauded. Yet, we should take the time and reflect: what kind of health care? The question is urgent, as the pollution that we have carelessly dumped into the environment since World War II, is getting back at us and affecting our health in big ways.
For most of us who get confronted with increased pollution and epidemics of cancer and other chronic diseases, all we want is the safest, most effective option available, whether it’s food, herbs, or a pharmaceutical drug. And for those who have been told their condition is terminal, alternative medicine may offer precious hope they thought was lost. But choosing between herbs and drugs is often difficult because the information that we need to make these decisions is largely unavailable.
Pharmaceutical and biotech companies invest heavily to create new-to-nature molecules they can easily patent, in order to create lucrative monopolies. That is why there is very little money and interest from the pharmaceutical companies for natural compounds (but plenty for “analogs”). And what if the best treatment is natural, and is of no interest to pharmaceutical companies? Today, it would go unnoticed. The system is distorted. By changing patent laws that force medical companies to create a new man-made molecule in order to be able to patent and make money on it, by changing the way scientific grants are awarded, by creating a patient-centered and health-centered health system rather than a sick-centered health system, the government could possibly create a new way to look at drugs. But this is not an easy task. On the other hand, preventing dietary supplement manufacturers from making any health claims, even when backed by solid science, deprives the public access to useful information, and is something that the government could easily change.
In 2004, Fortune magazine dedicated a full issue to cancer research. On the cover, in capital letters was the question: “Why We’re Losing the War On Cancer.” Under this provocative title the intriguing tagline appeared in parentheses: “And How to Win it.”
Clifton Leaf, the article’s author listed a number of “miracle cures that weren’t,” including radiation therapy, Interferon, Interleukin-2, Endostatin, and Gleevec. He concluded that we need to “change the way we think about cancer” and went on to quote Eli Lilly’s Homer Pearce:
“I think everyone believes that at the end of the day, cancer is going to be treated with multiple targeted agents—maybe in combination with traditional chemotherapy drugs, maybe not. Because that’s where the biology is leading us, it’s a future that we have to embrace—though it will definitely require different models of cooperation.”
That’s exactly what we need from our Health System: new models of cooperation that would tap Nature’s wonders to research molecules selective and non-toxic, able to prevent the damage to DNA structure, and to help restore cellular Health. Treatments will be cheaper, have less side effects, and we would all be healthier.
Health Advocate, Public Speaker, Award Winning Author