Get off the sickness treadmill


‘Health’ is difficult to sell

It is human nature to take something for granted if it is functioning. We understand the concept of servicing our cars, not waiting until they break down before we call a mechanic. It’s cheaper to aim for optimum health than it is to spend on disease care. We spend a lot of time and money getting ill and diseased. The killer diseases – like heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, asthma and depression – are, in many cases, the culmination of years of effort. Causes of disease are deeply rooted in social behaviours, and many factors contribute to the origins of disease-care. Doctors are trained to think and act in terms of disease. Prevention is a secondary consideration in most medical schools and true health optimisation is almost non-existent.

What we are currently doing in the ‘sickness industry’ is not working. If we really want to achieve optimal health and a disease-free society, we must realise that what we have been doing and the way we have been treating disease is not working for us.

Changes in public mind

Australians are starting to think more about health, but more information on true health optimisation is needed. People just need all the information to be able to base their decisions on. A major newspaper poll indicated that one in four Australians thought that the main issue for the federal elections was not the economy, the environment or even national security and acts of terrorism – they thought it was health. But what is the public perception of the term ‘health’? Simply, the continuation of the existing health service, the ready availability of pharmaceutical benefits, and a steady or increasing funding of hospitals and age care. All of these are only antidotes to illness, yet their interest could be a reflection of the deeper concerns, as people are becoming more aware of the fact we are getting sicker all the time in spite of the huge advancement in medicine.

Other factors influencing people are the exponential increase in levels of obesity and diabetes in the western world. The ‘baby boomer’ population – the generation that wants to delay the effects of ageing and wants longevity – is beginning to appreciate the true value and meaning of health.

If health is the correct functioning of the body, then disease is the opposite. For many, the issue of health is simply access to medical goods and services once illness has taken hold. When it is linked to the government’s expenditure, health has little association with the prevention of disease, and even less with education on how to avoid illness in the first place.

Overwhelming evidence

There are many convincing studies on the benefits of good nutrition, supplementation, exercise, and stress management to prolong health and prevent disease. What happens if there is an article on the TV about a natural health product all too often the product gets debunked by the end of the segment? Whatever one understands by the term ‘health’ when used in the public domain, it is only going to become an increasingly important issue in the near future. But can the responsibility for public health be thrust so readily onto the overburdened shoulders of government?

John F Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country”. Maybe we should be asking a similar question: “Ask not what your health care system can do for you, but what you can do for your health”.

There is not much doubt that the west’s ageing population will gradually see health, not capital, as the most valued currency. Imagine our government’s health budget being directed towards the promotion of true health in the population in general, and less towards the alleviation of illness in the individual. The results would be much more effective, and longer lasting.

Create a great day. Lyn Collett