Let me preface this post by stating that what follows might not be loved by all. I’m okay with that. I’m certainly not inventing anything new here, but I think a perspective change could be useful. Too many people in the Western world view health and the role of modern medicine as things that they are not.
First and foremost, we need to examine our definition of health. If health simply means not sick, then yes, the medical community sells that. If, however, our definition of health includes vitality and physical capacity, then we have defined something that is not sold by modern medicine.
Despite all the pharmaceutical commercials showing active people enjoying physical activities in the sunshine, not once have we heard, “Okay, so you are disease free. Now ask your doctor how to create a body that turns heads, will do anything you ask of it, and makes you jump for joy because it just feels so damn good to be alive!”
Those things are not the concerns of modern medicine. True, some doctors might very much want to give vitality to their patients, but they have to work hard to do so because their education didn’t teach them those things. Becoming a general practitioner means receiving so little nutrition and exercise education as to make those courses (or parts of courses) mostly a waste of time. To my knowledge, sleep gets even less attention and stress management is left entirely to the psychologists. Sadly, modern medicine is about treatment, and once you have nothing to treat, you aren’t a source of profit, which brings me to my next point.
The other thing we must remember is that it’s called the medical industry, not the medical group of saints who just want to help you. Why do we say that we want our kids to grow up to be doctors? Because doctors get paid well. If it were just about helping people, we would here more people say that they want their kids to be teachers. But we all know that teachers, at least in the US, don’t get paid what they’re worth.
The medical industry is doing exactly what it should be doing – it is making money. Patients are profitable. If you don’t have a disease, disorder, injury, etc., then modern medicine has nothing to sell you. This isn’t an evil conspiracy, it’s business. And since this is how business works, resources are used to grow profits. New drugs and procedures are created and tested at a high rate and astonishing expense. Labs around the world look for new treatments and cures (mostly treatments) using those drugs and procedures, but very little research (comparatively) goes into disease prevention. Why? Because there’s no profit in prevention.
While things carry on in medicine exactly like they do in every other industry, things only get silly when we start making assumptions that aren’t true. In the waiver that we have new clients sign in my gym, we have to advise them to check with their doctor before changing their diet or starting a new exercise program. I’ve always made the joke that you should also check with your hairstylist and your mechanic. Those people are just as likely to have a solid education on nutrition and exercise as your doctor, and many a doctor has admitted as much to me.
It should be clear that I’m not attacking doctors or the medical industry here. I’m attacking the mainstream idea that doctors and the medical industry sell health. They do not. They are doing amazing things to treat diseases, symptoms, and injuries. I think it’s nothing short of miraculous that I can cut my finger off and they can give it back to me in working order. It’s truly amazing that a person can wear out a knee after using it wrong for years and modern medicine can give them a seconds chance at a pain free life with a titanium knee. These things are astonishing and the list of their equivalents is long enough to make me lightheaded. But health means something more than pain free. Health is not just not sick. Unfortunately, health isn’t profitable, so we’re going to have to be our own experts.
Never stop learning, growing, and striving to give your body what it deserves. You can take your sicknesses and injuries to your doctor, but your health will be your responsibility.
Go forth and be awesome.