Modern medicine a technical marvel when it comes to trauma. If I’m ever in an accident, I sure hope it is in the US because our doctors are second to none at putting us back together. They are also fabulous in a disease crisis. However, for prevention of disease and for the treatment of chronic disease, there are other systems of medicine with much better records.
A giant portion of our national economy is now spent on what we euphemistically call “health care” but it is in fact “sickness care”. Whatever you call it, the US spends more per person on this care than any other nation on the planet and the costs are growing at a rate of about 6% a year. That is a great deal faster growth than our overall economic output and it is estimated that by the year 2023, sickness care costs will be almost a 20% share of the economy. Costs have gotten to be such a burden that the direct and indirect expenses (such as what manufacturers pass on hidden in their prices) threaten to bankrupt our country. Yet, as we all know, in spite of all that investment, our citizens are still fat (80% are overweight) and sick.
It is hard to imagine, but with all America’s resources, we rank quite poorly compared to other industrialized nations on most measures of wellness such as infant mortality, diabetes (an epidemic), heart disease, disability, health span and life expectancy. Even our government has had to admit that our standing relative to other developed countries continues to slip and in some cases to below that of third world countries. We only do fairly well (but not great) in statistics for stroke, cancer and keeping folks alive if they make it to age 75. Our advantage in those categories is due in large part to the happy fact that we smoke less than many countries and that our high tech medical heroics at the end of life are superior.i By that I mean we can prolong indefinitely but, by then that may have become a miserable existence. Isn’t what we really want to live younger longer? That is where diet and lifestyle save the day and we’d darn well better do what we can ourselves.
There is a good reason that it is called the “practice” of medicine. Treatments and recommendations go out of favor as more is learned and the proponents of the old ideas either are gradually brought around to the new thinking or they retire. For major changes, such a transition often takes 40 years, especially if there is a big financial incentive to stick to the old paradigm. Meanwhile, old ideas can cost lives. The article linked below, Death by Medicine, and the radio interview with one of the authors points out that the side effects of drugs, hospital-acquired infections and medical mistakes add up to be the number one cause of premature deaths. The more you know, the better you can avoid being one of those statistics.
For more information, read our pages on Drugs, How to Recognize a Quack, Testing and Why Women are Sicker. The page on the growing controversy over vaccinations and autism is also illuminating. (There is evidence now that authorities may have tampered with the studies to avoid showing a connection.)
Nearly 19% of Medicare recipients will experience serious harm due to medical care. The risk of death after these harms was greater, with only 45% surviving till the end of the study. Two thirds of the events occurred in outpatient care versus one third in hospitals. Link to abstract.
Death By Medicine. Dr. Gary Null.
Copyright 2014 by Martie Whittekin, CCN
US Institute of Medicine Report, 2013, US Health in International Perspective, Shorter Lives Poorer Health