I wrote years ago that, “If you keep going to hell, you’ll eventually get there.”
Today, half of North Americans suffer from chronic disease. One in four has several chronic diseases, and 30 per cent of children struggle with chronic illness. Chris Kresser, an integrative medicine clinician at The California Center for Functional Medicine, and author of the book, Unconventional Medicine, reports that conventional medicine has failed those suffering from chronic disease. So how can we prevent so many from finding their way to hell?
For centuries doctors knew the main cause of death was acute infectious disease, such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Today, they know another cause is lifestyle chronic disease, of which diet is a leading factor.
Medical treatment in the past was straightforward.
Doctors placed a cast on a broken arm, or removed a gallbladder full of stones. Today, lifestyle diseases are complex. As the Gifford-Jones law says, “One chronic problem leads to another and another.” They are also very expensive.
For example, it costs $14,000 a year to treat the average diabetic patient.
The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 100 million Americans have either Type 2 diabetes or full-fledged diabetes.
Try multiplying 100,000,000 by $14,000. My calculator ran out of space for the sum of just one disease. This means governments will eventually run out of money as the population increases and ages.
This dilemma is not the fault of doctors who genuinely want to cure patients. But, on average, family doctors now spend about 10 to 12 minutes per office patient.
You would have to be a magician to solve the lifestyle problems of an obese, hypertensive, diabetic patient in that period of time. Moreover, Kresser hits the nail on the head when he says, “We know that information is not enough to change behaviour. If it was, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now.”
So Kresser suggests saying to this patient, “Rather than wait until your problem gets worse, I’m sending you to a health coach who will come to your house and do a pantry clean-out.
“He or she will go shopping with you, provide recipes and meal plans. Then, we’ll send you to a personal trainer at the gym. The good news is your insurance company will pay for it, because it believes that spending a few thousand dollars up front will save half a million over the course of your lifetime of chronic disease.”
Kresser believes that for every physician there should be six other therapists such as nurse practitioners, wellness coaches, and nutritionists, who can direct patients to improved lifestyle and to circumvent chronic conditions.
Thank God, he also wants to eliminate bureaucracy and inefficient electronic medical record systems. Today, doctors spend too much time looking at the computer and less time with face-to-face contact of patients.
He claims that few people realize how small changes in lifestyle can decrease the risk of chronic disease. For instance, one-third of North Americans get less than six hours of daily sleep.
Years ago, it was two per cent of people. Now, the lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and reduced immune function. Sleep, Kresser says, is where we rejuvenate and regenerate our minds. This won’t happen without sleep.
He’s also concerned about the increasing amounts of electromagnetic fields we’re exposed to. They’ve been shown to impair biologic functions and sleep patterns.
The easy answer to this is to shut down the electrical circuit in the bedroom at night.
It seems small change, but one Denver health facility is involved in performance based payment. It asks the insurance company to pay X amount for reversing Type 2 diabetes in patients. If it’s not successful, pay less, but more if it actually reverses the disease. Incentive usually pays off.
Kresser’s analysis of medical care reminds me of a speech given by an economist who, after looking at our health care system, remarked, “It’s like giving my credit card to my daughter on graduation and saying, darling, go out and buy something.” He then added, “If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, you don’t know my daughter.”
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