Several years ago, I heard a portion of a presentation being given by Montel Williams. One thing he said caught my attention. He warned the audience that there were “two freight trains heading toward you right now.” Those two freight trains, according to him, were chronic illness and a lack of doctors in the future. I know he was absolutely correct on the first one, chronic illness. I am guessing he is correct about the second one also, as I have read about the declining interest in a career as a medical doctor among the younger population. I also know several medical doctors that have stated that they will not encourage their children to follow in their footsteps. In fact, most of them are discouraging them from going into medicine, as they themselves are disappointed with the changes that are occurring in medicine today.
So I agree with Montel that those are two issues headed our way, but he spoke as if the two are closely related. It would seem logical to think that fewer doctors would lead to an increased chronic illness crisis. Here lies the problem that has been building for the past several decades. We have somehow linked the level of health we have to the quality of health care we have access to. Having better doctors should equal better health, right? Wrong! Certainly not when it comes to the chronic illness crisis in this country.
While the future health of America is dismal at best, it is already in crisis. Chronic illness is crushing the health of Americans today. Most Americans hear the words “chronic illness,” but do not understand that these are also referred to as “diseases of lifestyle.” This means that the reason someone has the condition they have been diagnosed with is because of poor lifestyle choices. There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is how devastating these conditions are, and that at least fifty-five percent of Americans are currently diagnosed with a “disease of lifestyle.” And an upsetting seven out of ten deaths (70%) are due to these conditions. So what’s the good news? Look at the words… diseases of LIFESTYLE. This means that if you improve your lifestyle choices, your risk of suffering from chronic illness goes way down.
So despite the idea that more doctors, or even more really, really good doctors, will help, they are not dictating your lifestyle choices. You are! Sadly, most medical doctors have no advanced training in lifestyle intervention. So not only can they not give you something to change your lifestyle, most do not have the knowledge base to guide you through appropriate changes necessary to get on the right track.
I have cared for thousands of patients, most of whom have experienced the shortcomings of mainstream medicine. While I have worked closely with many very good medical doctors that do value the impact diet, exercise, stress, and other lifestyle choices play in the development, progression, and ultimately, the outcome of most chronic illnesses, MOST doctors undervalue, or just outright dismiss, the relationship between these choices you make and the affect they have on your health. It may sound harsh, but if you are relying on your medical doctor to lead you and your family down a path of health and well-being, you will be, and likely already have been, seriously disappointed.
There is no country I would rather be in if I had a trauma. My daughter busted her head open and needed ten stitches. The doctors did an amazing job. America is number one in caring for broken bones, cuts, and burns. Unfortunately, despite all of the medical advances, we rank among the lowest of developed nations in overall health. You want better health? Understand that your lifestyle choices matter most, and realize that these choices are made independently of your doctor.
The next time your doctor rolls his or her eyes when you mention alternative forms of care, or minimizes your request to try changing your diet and exercise regime before taking medication, remember that while these doctors are very knowledgeable in crisis care, most have little knowledge, training, or even interest in lifestyle intervention.