Thursday, September 27, 2018

Cooperation is the Future of the Healthcare

Do you remember the kids from school so full of themselves that nobody wanted to do group work with them?  Perhaps you work with someone like that today, the know-it-all who has left no room in his/her mind for anyone else’s ideas.  Sometimes, these people attain great individual success, but it is often at the expense of group success.  American healthcare exemplifies that trend on a larger scale, with plenty of individual successes, but having spent far more money than any other nation on healthcare only to achieve dismal outcomes by comparison to our global peers, it would be fair to state that individual success has come at a steep cost: our health. 

Egocentrism, a self-centered tendency bordering on narcissism, has permeated American healthcare for a long time.  If American healthcare is to make the necessary changes that it needs, however, egocentrism must give way to a more cooperative environment. 

Cooperation is our path to the healthcare system we need, and that begins with a gargantuan challenge to everyone from the various practitioners of all different specialties to the third party payers to the sick to the well: we have to collectively recognize that what we have been doing for the past fifty years does not work, that attempting to strengthen the system dominant across these past five decades is a fundamentally flawed concept, and that a basic educational shift toward a broader understanding of what it takes to be healthy is paramount to any change we seek to make. 

The root of the healthcare crisis in the United States is systemic.  If we define health as a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity, then the basic tenet around which a cooperative healthcare system must be built is how to accomplish the various aspects of that health definition and the subsequent creation of a hierarchy among practitioners predicated on which aspects they optimally serve.  As it stands, the American healthcare system is primarily aimed at treating symptoms, disease, and trauma, making it unsurprising that our global peers so easily outpace us – our system is not built on being healthy, but rather addressing the various problems that stem from being unhealthy.  

As an industry, healthcare in the USA is thriving, but statistically healthcare is like a sports franchise that makes a ton of money and outspends everyone else while annually producing losing seasons.  Consumers demand overt expressions of success, in sports meaning wins and in healthcare meaning well-being, and it is time that consumers in the healthcare industry were made more aware of how bad our system has gotten so that they may take a more active role in demanding change. 

It is a unique challenge that we face, overhauling a system that triumphs financially in spite of its poor results.  Even the vast majority of the financial resources in the research community, which spearheads the effort to make advances that would improve outcomes, are spent on how to better treat symptoms, disease, and trauma; and yet disease is more prominent than ever, rates of cancer and heart disease are climbing instead of falling, and people are dying in alarming numbers from adverse reactions to the primary medical methods of choice to combat such conditions. 

Respectfully then, step one in this healthcare revolution has to be a substantial increase in both recognition on the part of the public and self-awareness from within the allopathic ranks that the goals and practices of conventional medicine can no longer be positioned as the gatekeepers of our health system.  $3.5 trillion and rising and consumption of 80% of the worldwide production in medications just to be ranked the worst health system?   We live in a sick nation, and we have a moral responsibility to figure out how to change that; the conventional methods are not producing results and, though it wields a great deal of influence that, given its profitability, it naturally would not want to concede, the truth is the truth and shall remain unchanged, regardless of economics, until drastic changes are made. 

Reducing American reliance on conventional methods would, in turn, reduce the role of insurance companies.  Conventional methods are very expensive, thus the insurance to cover consumer use of them is quite costly.  The Law of Insurance states that premiums drop only as the number of claims decreases; such is why life insurance is so affordable for young, generally healthy people.  Whereas we currently use so-termed “health” insurance to readily overuse conventional medicine with consequently skyrocketing premiums, a movement toward conventional medicine’s role being reduced would allow premiums to diminish in potentially dramatic fashion.  

Sacrificing is rarely easy, but like parents must inevitably sacrifice for the betterment of their children, it is just something that we figure out how to do when it is necessary; and the realities are that these sacrifices are long overdue and that the conventional philosophy and its constituents, which receive 99% of the trillions spent on healthcare each year, have the most sacrifices to make. 

Daunting as that may be conceptually, our other option is to allow a grassroots healthcare movement admittedly building strength to gain inches while we really need to be gaining yards; we must ask ourselves why we should settle for inch-by-inch progress when kids are statistically sicker in this country than ever before and while tens of millions suffer needlessly with preventable conditions. 

It is much easier to keep a well person healthy than to get a sick person well, thus step two in the healthcare revolution should be the cultivation of uniformity regarding the basic principles of healthy living and the appropriate expansion of the roles for practitioners currently considered non-conventional who are better suited and trained for a proactive, wellness-based philosophical paradigm shift.  A healthy percentage of non-conventional practitioners share the understanding that the human body is readily equipped to heal and sustain itself if it only receives what it needs to thrive.  The problem is that we lack a strong, unified message about the various things that the body requires to regain and maintain optimal health. 

Unity would go a long way toward taking step two.  All or nothing mindsets are part of egocentrism, and accordingly there has emerged a tendency for holistic practitioners to get stuck in the bubble of their own respective niches.  If we were to agree that the nerve system’s functional capacity to regulate the body is both of paramount importance and that it is something that can be influenced logically and scientifically; if we were to agree that nutritional counseling and supplementation are imperative, especially given the challenge of finding high quality, untainted food; if we recognized that the integrity of the human structural frame was dependent upon foundational balance and decreasing tension on the tissues; if were to agree that stress management coaching and attitude improvement were indispensable tools without which the goal of thriving is made far more perplexing; and if we were to further agree that these various aspects of healthy living, activity/exercise included, were not mutually exclusive but part of a vitalistic formula that every single person needs in order to be well, then we would have the core of an infrastructure for a revamped healthcare system.  

In addition to unity among the so-termed “non-conventional,” destigmatizing the likes of chiropractic, integrative medicine, naturopathy, etc. would also be very useful in stimulating the kind of dialogue necessary for health practitioners, allopathic and holistic alike, to work with instead of against each other in order to streamline the aforementioned big picture process. 

Language is a powerful, perception-shaping tool, and right now the language being utilized in healthcare downgrades everything non-medical into categories that describe them as subordinates of conventional medicine, as “alternative” to or “complimentary” of the conventional methods.  Conventional medicine is like calculus is to mathematics, its applications numerous and important but nowhere near all-encompassing.  Holistic practices deserve to be distinguished with language that acknowledges what they intend to be and not what conventionalists would rather label them; those labels misrepresent the comparison to the conventional as apples to apples, but it is in fact apples to oranges.  Our use of language regarding healthcare has to change if we want to better facilitate a more cooperative system, and that begins with a clear understanding of what everyone does and does not bring to the table.  

Once a more cooperative system has been established, then we can take our unified message to the masses, eventually implementing human physiology, nutrition, exercise, structural anatomy, and stress management/attitude as the basis for an elementary education curriculum taught in stages under the “Health” label right alongside the various pillars of learning mathematics; we can reestablish the better-suited role of conventional methods as guardians at the gates of death, the fire department of healthcare if you will, rescuing patients in need of its disaster intervention tools, a role at which it would
have the opportunity to earn worldwide recognition as the best at what it does exceptionally without extended sidebars about it being the leaders of the worst health system; we can revise the focus of research, which has practically been monopolized by the reactive mindset associated with disease/symptom treatment, to study causative factors and preventative measures that embrace rather than shun the human body’s innate capacity to heal, and also further refine the research process that has come under increased scrutiny.

The bottom line is that, without a collective conscious awareness of the realities we face and without greater unity among all of us to push harder (and in the same direction) for fundamental change, then the necessary healthcare revolution will continue to be rendered a surfer headed straight into a tidal wave.  With cooperation, though, we can realistically aim to strengthen the health of the population by focusing on the core aspects of healthy living, allowing those suffering to genuinely get well and educating those who are generally well on how to stay that way. 

Thinking good things for you,

Dr. Chad

Friday, September 7, 2018

Stress, Social Media, and How Finding Common Ground Would Make Us Healthier

Stress is the leading cause of health problems in the United States.  It is to us what kryptonite is to Superman, and the closer we are to it and the longer we are around it, the further it weakens us.  Though our bodies are capable of super-heroics, healing from all sorts of conditions, illnesses, and injuries (from the simple cut to the broken bone to the so-termed incurable disease process), stress at varying speeds strips us of our innate power, consequently rendering us decreasingly resilient in the fight to maintain sound health.     

Accordingly, we have to be more mindful of how to manage stress, for just as Superman can in the comics determine the presence of his Achilles heel by its bright green glow, we must develop a broader understanding of the various sources that create stress in our lives so that they may be promptly identified and dealt with.  For instance, one of the common themes among many stressors is negativity, but recognize that negative people or things do not always have to figuratively clobber you over the head every day to have a consistently detrimental impact on your health; worrying about monthly bills creates comparable internal strife as the daily interactions with an overbearing boss, exemplifying that subtler negatives build momentum against the positives all the same as the obvious ones in the figurative arms race for control over your body and mind.

The above having been stated, another source of stress that ought to be considered is the mounting number of polarizing issues in our world and, more specifically, both how we react to them and how often we are exposed to the rhetoric surrounding them.  For some of us, the on-going debates about healthcare, gun reform, human rights, etc. sit at the forefront of our everyday lives, while for others they occupy smaller spaces in our psyche, but very few can ignore the fact that there are a lot of things in need of our collective attention so that the problems we presently face can get resolved.  Our reactions to the politics, be they subtle or overt, are in fact happening, and we would be wise to consider also how much healthier we could be – via decreasing stress – if the resolutions to said issues did not feel so distant, as they are often at least perceived to be. 

Averting attention away from headline news has been getting harder for the last century and, peaking with our modern cultural climate of constant connectivity, it is more challenging now than ever before to escape the noise about society’s ills; and the noise gets ever louder, the spoken or written verbiage highly contentious, by and large.  It is the age of the all-or-nothing argument, and the more exposure we have to the barrage of endless bickering, the angrier we become and the higher our stress levels reach; it is not healthy.  Therefore, it is in our best interest to try to improve. 

One aspect of the digital age, which allows us to communicate with someone from a different background or even continent in seconds through a social media post, that we are still figuring out is how to assimilate the opinions and values of people that extend beyond our typical bubble, in which we become accustomed to similarly held belief systems and ways of life.  Psychologically, the research is pretty clear: we are predisposed to be very empathetic to family and friends, but the greater distance between us and our social networks, the lesser the tendency to be compassionate.  Social media has simultaneously disconnected us somewhat from our tribal disposition, if you will, and connected us to a much wider variety of different belief systems and ways of life; it has changed the world, and we are capable of changing with it. 

Mark Twain once said, “It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble [but what] you know for sure that just ain't so.”  Unfortunately, we have brought with the globalizing force of social media our long-held propensity to skew our perception toward all things unknown into patterns that fit an already established sociologic narrative, an inclination otherwise known as confirmation bias; in other words, we want new information to be consistent with what we already believe.  Social media expanded the scope of our potential interactions and, to its credit amongst its many controversies, it has given us an opportunity to break the bad habit of confirmation bias by observing the personal journeys of all sorts of people.  We have not yet recognized the potential of that opportunity and, so long as we remain in detrimental patterns, we will miss the chance to learn about and process different knowledge-bases and perspectives. 

American healthcare is still statistically the worst in the industrialized world, school shootings are only escalating in volume, we remain overly judgmental to downright cruel toward people who are different; and the only way to change any of those things is to tone down the destructive arguing and get back to discussions that more readily lead to constructive actions and education.  If we improve our discourse, then we make it easier to find common ground and quicken the pace toward making changes that are not so divisive.   

Better quality communication requires a general faith that respective parties within the conversational roundtable have something valuable to contribute, an open-mindedness to ideas and viewpoints not necessarily shared by all.  Humans have been fighting each other near-constantly for thousands of years about the same basic things; shall we attempt an alternate strategy, one that tears down the black and white thinking that has plagued us for generations and that frequently makes it feel as though we are stuck in sociological quicksand?  If faith – in the divine, in ourselves, in the concept that we deserve to be happy, etc. - is one of the most powerful agents to combat stress, then more heavily investing our faith in other people would prove a valuable asset in creating the change that we need; and that extends to happiness and, subsequently, our overall well-being (health).