This will probably read as odd to many considering the economic strength of the pharmaceutical industry and the brand recognition that modern medicine has achieved, but healthcare has not yet truly had its revolutionary period. When preventable conditions dominate the most deadly list, kids are sicker now than ever (despite our wealth and resources), our health system ranks last in the world amongst our industrialized peers despite being first in cost, and adverse reactions and deaths via medications are out of control, contemporary healthcare can hardly be considered revolutionary, with respect given to specific innovations. Recent events and deeply troubling repercussions have magnified the long-standing problem with basing healthcare on the theories of disease. The time has, thus, come to redefine health so that we can begin designing the blueprint for healthcare's future.
A problem cannot be fixed if its fundamental cause is not identified. Health has been poorly defined for most of our lifetimes and we have been given a cradle-to-grave indoctrination of a narrow viewpoint on it. Just as you cannot achieve true freedom in a socialist state, you cannot change healthcare if the system that oversees it is philosophically rooted in sickness and symptom treatment. For all its proselytizing on science, our healthcare system has failed to follow the basics of the scientific method, for though it may ask lots of questions that become theoretical constructs, it overlooks the laws of life.
Thomas Edison was one of the greatest inventors who ever lived, using already proven laws on electricity to among other things light up our world. “The doctor of the future will give no medicine,” he said in 1903, “but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Health history witnessed a revolutionary step-forward when it followed Edison’s lead toward disease prevention and developed modern sanitation, the unsung hero of and quite possibly the primary reason for plummeting rates of communicable disease in the mid-to-late 20th century. Regrettably, healthcare has since remained stuck in a disease-oriented bubble, one failed theory after another, ignoring laws.
Designing systems based on scientific laws is paramount to the effectiveness and safety of the systems. Aviation, for instance, is based on the laws of physics. Accidents happen, but they are so rare now that air travel is considered the safest form transportation. If 250,000 people per year died in America of plane crashes like they do of adverse reactions to medications, would we not go back to the drawing board on aerodynamics? Of course we would, but fortunately the laws of physics create an always sturdy foundation for future innovation.
The first step in revamping American healthcare, then, is redefining health based on patterns that repeatedly hold up against scrutiny (i.e. laws). An optimal definition would create a new baseline understanding of health and how each of us can achieve it, giving power and responsibility back to the individual body in which the laws of life are expressed.
To that end, it is important to emphasize a forest instead of individual trees mentality as it relates to our bodies, that we are the products of intricate internal relationships neurologically (i.e. communication), psychologically (i.e. thoughts), physiologically (i.e. function), and anatomically (i.e. structure), not just a bunch of random parts to be studied and treated in sections.
Optimizing the body – when the aforementioned internal relationships are the equivalent of strong marriages – is perhaps the ideal phrase to form the foundation for this revised definition because we know from meticulous study that the human body, when optimized, can overcome just about anything. A symptom like fever or the symptoms associated with food poisoning will come as needed and go on their own. They represent the body's ability to adapt when challenged by an aggressive foreign invader. No interventions are required to deal with them unless the symptoms get out of control, which is very uncommon.
Adaptability, therefore, should factor into health redefined as well. The body's adaptability represents how efficiently it can sort through physical, chemical, emotional, or environmental stressors. Generally, a proliferation of symptoms suggests, more than anything else, weakened adaptability. A laws of life-based response to symptomatic outbreaks would be to address the various causes of weakened adaptability, as opposed to applying diagnostic labels and treating symptoms with chemical interventions, which only hinder the body's response because they interfere with innate adaptation, causing a second adaptation to be necessary (such is why side effects to medications dominate three-quarters of drug ads).
So, here is a new definition of health:
HEALTH (noun) – an optimized state in which the numerous organ systems in the body work harmoniously together at a level conducive to sustaining an innate adaptability capable of preventing sickness and overcoming the causes of various symptoms
The future of healthcare may well rest in this philosophical and scientific shift; from studying, for instance, why the 1% are really sick or dying among the 8% expected to eventually be diagnosed with COVID-19 and instead focusing most of the research on the vast majority of that 8% who recover fully or, better yet, the 92% who never earn the diagnosis at all. It would make sense to base healthcare research on how healthier people remain well and avoid illness.
Based on the above definition, a revitalized and refocused healthcare system could make its primary objective to understand what takes our bodies out of an optimized state, building on established knowledge of such adaptability-reducing agents as physical trauma, chemical insults, and emotional stress and the holistic methods built to eliminate or lessen them. After all, no more than you can learn how to float by studying how to sink, you cannot learn how to be healthy by studying sickness.