But far from being all "doom and gloom" about this, I'm actually encouraged to see that there is a way out of this mess - and it's actually simpler than you might think - at least on the surface. The answer to many of our problems are one and the same, that is, they are connected to each other. In order to find answers, we must start taking a more holistic view, and begin recognizing the interconnectedness between these systems.
The truth is, nothing in this world exists in a vacuum. In today's global marketplace, these connections are more visible than ever before. Climate change affects us all. Agricultural policies in one part of the world can impact the availability of food in another country. Health epidemics can quickly spread across the globe. Nothing and no one is truly separate anymore.
Instead of relying on our current bio-medical allopathic medical model of health, if we are to survive as a healthy and thriving species, it is time to move to a more interconnected and holistic understanding of health and well-being.
Here are a few ideas on why and how we can achieve such a thing.
Our planet is experiencing a type of "systemic inflammation," according to this excellent in-depth article from TheNextSystem.org, and it is letting us know that our modern way of living is "grossly out of balance and discordant with how we are designed to exist."
A way forward that will solve these problems can only be found by considering the planet and its inhabitants as a whole, and looking at solutions from this holistic viewpoint.
What we can discover is a profound appreciation of the complexity and interconnectedness of life across traditionally silo-ed institutional spheres of influence—health care, economics, agriculture, and others—which can no longer be ignored.
Agriculture does not exist in a void. What happens to our food before it reaches us - how it is grown/raised and processed - has far-reaching impacts on both the environment and our personal health.
Speaking of health, a more holistic model is needed here as well. Modern medicine is just now beginning to realize the impact that things like stress, exercise, nutrition, bacteria, and even mindset have on our health. True health (as I have mentioned many times before, is NOT just a physical state. It encompasses emotional, mental, and spiritual states along with our physical status. New medical and scientific fields in areas such as epigenetics, psychoneuroimmunology and the microbiome are revealing new connections between all of these areas every day, and a new model of health is just beginning to take shape.
The resiliency model, also known as a dynamic, integrative or whole person model of health, is consistent with how most individuals understand their lives and that our everyday health and well-being represent more than physical status, or the absence of disease, but include how vital we feel.
However, thought and words alone will not be enough to solve the problems now facing us. The current economic paradigm that underlies most of our systems - including healthcare - is designed to promote growth and profit at the expense of social and environmental impacts. And this is not all. We also live in a world where most of our medical education is based on 19th-century medical knowledge, which focuses on the physical bodily systems only, and overlooks other factors. The allopathic model is focused solely on disease and treatment, rather than considering the body as a complex and interrelated system which is impacted by a number of other factors, including social, environmental, and mental.
As the article mentioned above states: "Perverse financial incentives reward the treatment of symptoms, rather than root causes and health outcomes."
Our healthcare system is now a transactional model, and not only does this put the needs of the patient last, but in general, the article mentions that patients and providers alike are dissatisfied and frustrated, lacking in the relationships needed to truly provide health care rather than "sick care."
And this is only one of the reasons why we spend far more on healthcare than any other nation (an average of $9,000 per person per year), and yet remain just as unhealthy, if not more so. In fact, many families cannot afford healthcare at all - although the Affordable Care Act was beginning to have a small impact in the U.S.. Although far from perfect, the ACA introduced the idea of more holistic approaches and concepts into our healthcare model, and how we define health, which provides us with a basis moving forward on which to discuss the important questions about healthcare spending.
Yet, before asking where we want to spend our money on health, what if we asked how we might create a system in which health was built in instead? This question requires us to rethink our health care model, our definition of health and the creation of a new health operating system.
1. The Whole Person Model of Health
2. Integrative Health & Medicine
3. Health & Place
4. Living Systems & the Democratization of Health
5. Health, Environment & the Rights of Nature
We will be talking more in depth about each of these next week in Part II of this important topic.
Until then, live (holistically) healthy!