Why ObamaCare is Not Enough: Turning off the Demand for Health Care

by

In the run up to the presidential election, the political debate is heating up around health care.  Recently the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate, but the single biggest question is hauntingly absent from the campaign discourse.

How do we stop and turn back the tsunami of chronic disease, in particular, diabesity – the continuum of obesity, pre-diabetes, and diabetes that is the major driver of 21st century suffering and costs?

Diabesity is the hidden cause of most heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, dementia, many cancers (breast, colon, prostate, pancreas, liver, and kidney) and even depression. Yet is it almost never treated directly because there is no good drug for it.

In short, health care reform addressed the supply side of health care, making it more accessible and improving processes and systems to reduce inefficiencies and medical errors.

But no one is touching the fundamental issue that must be addressed to halt the crippling of the federal budget, improve our global economic competitiveness, and enhance our national security (because a sick and fat nation can’t compete in the marketplace, can’t fight in the military, and will bankrupt our nation) is this:

Reducing the Demand for Health Care:
How Do We Create Less Sickness and More Health

We must change the demand side of the health care equation by improving the health of our population and reversing and treating chronic disease more effectively by addressing the root lifestyle causes of disease, both biological and social.

Over the next 20 years $47 trillion will be spent around the world to address chronic diseases caused by diabesity. How our next president addresses this will determine whether or not we bequeath a bankrupt, desperately sick nation to our children; the first generation of Americans who will live sicker and die younger than their parents.

The good news is while we cannot solve problems like war or natural disasters, we can solve diabesity, heart disease and most chronic disease. We haven’t been able to win the war in Afghanistan, but we can win this war on chronic disease.

Diabesity is nearly 100% preventable, treatable, and very often curable.  As Donald Rumsfeld said, this is a “known, known.” The science is clear, the strategies well documented (if little applied.)  Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Partiers alike all have the potential to get sick and must face this problem square on.

Diabesity affects one in two Americans, yet is not diagnosed in ninety percent of those who have it. In fact, there are no national screening recommendations for pre-diabetes or for persons at high risk for diabetes. The implications of this medical blind spot are staggering – the single biggest cause of chronic disease is overlooked and not treated 90% of the time.

Twenty-five percent of those over sixty-five, one in five African Americans, and one in ten across the whole population have diabetes.  One in three children born today will have diabetes in their lifetime. And pre-diabetes affects up to 150 million Americans.

Diabetes alone accounts for one in three Medicare dollars spent. Diabetics cost health plans five times more than non-diabetics ($20,000 vs. $4,000.) By 2014, when sixteen million more citizens are eligible for Medicaid, the burden of costs will be even greater.

Seventy percent of the federal budget is for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. By 2042, 100% of the federal budget will be required to pay for Medicare and Medicaid, leaving nothing for defense, transportation, education, agriculture, environment, or any of the government’s other basic services.

This is unsustainable. We need a collective, bipartisan national campaign with the passion and vision of President Kennedy’s call to action, of “putting a man on the moon by the end of this decade.”

Insuring the Wrong Kind of Care

The insurance reform at the heart of the Affordable Care Act allows for better access to medical care, including medication and surgery. It laudably promotes improved efficiencies, reduction in medical errors, better care coordination, and implementation of best practices.

But what if we are coordinating the wrong kind of care? What if our best practices are the wrong practices?  Our toxic industrial diet, our sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, and environmental toxins cause diabesity and its attendant downstream ills (often mislabeled as something else such as hypertension, cancer, heart disease, and dementia.)

Drugs and surgery are feeble, ineffective, costly, and often harmful treatments for lifestyle-induced illness. They are misguided efforts at best, dangerous at worst.  Mounting evidence proves that the solution to lifestyle- and diet-driven obesity-related illnesses won’t be found at the bottom of a prescription bottle; they will be found at the end of our fork.

Prescription medication for lifestyle disease has failed to bend the obesity, disease, and cost curves.  Statins have been recently found to increase the risk of diabetes in women by 48%. And factoring in the increased risk of diabetes when statins are used to prevent first heart attacks, there is no net benefit, and significant potential harm from statin use in over 20 million Americans who take them.

Avandia, for example, the number one blockbuster drug for type 2 diabetes, has caused nearly 200,000 deaths from heart attacks since it was introduced in 1999.   The large ACCORD trial found in over 10,000 diabetics that intensive blood sugar lowering with medication and insulin actually led to more heart attacks and deaths.  This is Pharmageddon.

A recent study found that over 75% of stent placements for heart disease don’t help at all to reduce heart attacks and deaths, are harmful, and unnecessarily increase health care expenditures. Yet the number of angioplasties and stent placements performed has increased, not decreased.

We don’t have “evidence-based” medicine. We have “reimbursement-based” medicine. Doctors do what they get paid to do, not what the science shows they should do.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is an extensively studied, scientifically validated set of strategies that work better, faster, and cheaper than medication and surgery and can be implemented at scale with little cost by lay people in local communities and in medical practices.

Shifting Toward True Health Care and Away from Sick Care

Intensive lifestyle therapy–not wellness counseling or prevention, but lifestyle treatment of existing chronic disease – focusing on pre-diabetes, diabetes, and heart disease has been proven to work better than medication or surgery.  Currently this is not implemented in our health care delivery system or in community-based programs in any meaningful way.  But it can and should be.

Intensive lifestyle treatments – simple, proven behavioral change strategies, peer and online support, appropriate financial incentives, and partnerships within communities–can be used to address the social, behavioral, and biomedical roots of diabesity and heart disease.

While the individual mandate and insurance reform have been the main focus of the debate surrounding ObamaCare, little known, but potentially transformative provisions of the Affordable Care Act provide the seeds of change for our entire health care system.

These provisions, the National Diabetes Prevention Program (section 10501), Prevention and Public Health Fund (section 4002), creation of community health teams (section 3502), and incentives for states to prevent chronic illness among Medicaid beneficiaries (section 4108), could stem the tide of chronic disease.

There is no lack of pilot programs, demonstration projects, and examples of the success of intensive, community-based lifestyle programs to improve health care outcomes and reduce costs.  Current provisions for payment and innovation within the health reform bill set the stage for expansion of these programs.

The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that a structured lifestyle-change program could reduce the progression to diabetes by 58%, working better than any other known treatment.

The study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine, was based on outdated and contraindicated nutritional advice from the old Food Pyramid recommending a low-fat diet for diabetes prevention.

The study was performed when bread and pasta were king, and our government encouraged us to eat 8-10 servings a day of bread and cereals, which are now known to directly drive the risk of diabetes. And yet still, it was more effective than any medication.

The Community is the Cure

This model has been scaled in communities and organizations across America, including a partnership with the Center for Disease Control, YMCA of America, and United Health Group using lay health coaches to implement the program.

While the dietary recommendations are still less than ideal, these programs are working.  Imagine what a program based on 21st century nutritional science could do. And these programs have been conservatively documented to save billions.

And over the last few years a number of examples of the power of community-based peer-support models have emerged. At Saddleback Church Rick Warren, Mehmet Oz, Daniel Amen, and I enrolled more than 15,000 congregants in a lifestyle change program delivered with online support in small peer-support groups.

The church members lost 250,000 pounds in a year, and many reversed diabetes, reduced or eliminated medication, and avoided hospitalization.  We changed the culture of the church – changed what was served at bible breakfasts, at work, and at home. Participants learned to create health together — to shop, cook, eat, exercise, and play together. We didn’t treat disease.  We didn’t create a weight-loss program.  We taught people self-care and how to care for one another, and together they created a miracle – something heath care or health care reform has not been able to achieve.

Innovative community-based models also can change our default choices for how we live, move, eat, and play.  If the things that create health are easy to access and things that create disease are hard to get to, extraordinary change occurs.

In Albert Lea, Minnesota, a pilot project was designed to create healthy choices and limit bad ones. Kids who weren’t allowed to eat in hallways and classrooms, for example, lost 10% of their weight.

In Thailand, one community garden is irrigated by an old bike hooked up to a generator run by patients with diabetes. They get exercise and grow healthy food at the same time.

This model has been replicated across the world – including Peers for Progress that created pilot programs to treat diabetes in Cameroon, Uganda, Thailand and South Africa based on peer support.

The peer support group models were more effective than conventional medical intervention for improving the health of diabetics and health care costs decreased 10-fold.

Health it seems happens outside the clinic, where people live, work, play, and pray. We need to rethink how we treat chronic disease.  It is not only better medical management which often just barely if at all staves off complications and death, but with high science, low cost, and high touch innovations.

Toward a True Solution for Health Care

A comprehensive integrated strategy can solve this problem.

  • Start with revised screening guidelines to identify the 90% of pre-diabetics and the 25% of diabetics never diagnosed. Build new practice models and reimbursement for group visits to deliver lifestyle medicine in more effective and cost efficient ways.
  • Support and scale proven community-based peer-support models of lifestyle change and provide support to scale the Medicare approved Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease, which has at its core the peer group support model.
  • Over 20% of Americans are out of work.  Train a new army of 1 million community health workers, like the barefoot doctors of China, who can support their peers in creating health. Set a national goal for America of losing 1 billion pounds a year.
  • Retool medical education to train future doctors in lifestyle and food treatment. Support private-public partnerships to create community environments that foster a healthier lifestyle.
  • Fully fund the programs that work (lifestyle change) and stop paying for what doesn’t work (most angioplasties, stents and statin use for primary prevention.)
  • Implement the little-known provisions from the Affordable Care Act that can effect change.
  • Prioritize the work of the newly formed National Council on Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health, an inter-agency council focused on creating a healthy America outside of the clinic and hospital.

Fund these programs, test them, implement them, measure them, and then let the good ones flourish.

We can’t win the war in Afghanistan, and we have been losing the war on cancer, but this is one war we can win.  We just need to mobilize.   It is the only way we will affect the demand for health care and stem this tsunami of chronic disease.  Our future and our children’s future depend on it.  Our survival as a leading nation on the world stage also depends on it.  And that is something everyone can get behind.

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

,

70 Responses to Why ObamaCare is Not Enough: Turning off the Demand for Health Care

  1. Profile photo of Sharon Vaughan
    Sharon Vaughan August 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Dr. Hyman,
    There is light at the end of the tunnel! I work for a Group Healthcare Insurance Agency. I am NOT a licensed agent, I AM a wellness nut! Because of how “Obamacare” may affect what we do, we are gearing up to push Wellness Programs to the Groups/Individuals we serve – many of them are incentive-based too. Employers always look for ways to reduce their employee healthcare costs. The best way to do this is to encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles. The state where I live already has gone “smoke-free” and many employers mandate “smoke-free” policies. I consider results-driven Wellness Programs a step in the right direction; baby steps perhaps, but better than nothing.

    I’m thrilled that you do what you do by leading the charge for folks to take responsibility for their own health. I promise to do what I can to help your/this healthcare agenda! Keep up the good work : )

  2. Kathleen Biggns August 25, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    Hi Dr Hyman, Your letter is amazing. I would be the first in line to become a ifestyle educator. Your books are my gudelines now and I know we all must change .It is difficult when society does not support this lifestyle but more and more I realize it is the only way to health. We especially need to slow down and enjoy life . I am still in a fast paced job that glorifies employees who over work themselves rather than nourish and protect their health. This is a major problem.
    I pack my lunch and have to come up with ingenious ways to actually stop and eat ;there is no lunch break unless we request one after working 7.5 hours. The ironic thing is I work in a SPA! Thanks for all you are doing and I hope to meet you someday,hopefully I WILL find a new career based on your principles and more people can look forward to a happier ,healthier life.
    Sincerely, Kathie Biggins

  3. Debbie Gallaspy August 25, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    Hi, I read your article about what needs to be done to address our unhealthy nation, and I agree with you, you are so RIGHT! We need to address the problem before it becomes a full blown problem, not try to fix broken people after the fact with drugs. I live in a small community in northeast TN, and go to a small church (195 members) but am wondering if we could do at our church what was done at Saddleback. I am a retired dental hygienist, so have some knowledge of basic health, but would want a really good outline. I would want to be trained to be the community leader to initiate this program. How would I go about doing that? Is there some kind of training already. I know our young pastor would be open to this idea, and he is enfluential with the church organization, perhaps we could get several churches in our area participating. Please let me know. This is the best idea I have seen coming out of all the political nonsense that is happening right now. Thanks so much! Debbie Gallaspy

    • Claudia August 25, 2012 at 7:40 am #

      This is not a political idea as much as a social one. Politicians trying to make this change will be shot down because “we are free to choose to eat simple carbs and corn syrup ,and you can’t mandate health.” You are right to suggest pastors taking up the fight. That is surely the way to go,social,not political.

  4. N Brazzell August 25, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    It is so refreshing to hear this kind of talk. I believe with all my heart. How do we get everyone on board is the big question. It’s one of those almost no brainers yet so hard to get started. It’s sad to see such a fat sick nation that is self inflicted because of government practices. I pray people’s eyes will be opened and they will realize they must take responsibility for their health by dumping the American standard diet.

  5. sick of sick August 25, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    My husband just got out of the hospital for his 6th bout of cellulitis in his lower leg in 4 years. Instead of telling him that if he lost 100 pounds, ate a healthy diet, and got regular excise (maybe then being able to get off of his asthma and cholesterol medication) – this condition is after all, 100% avoidable, they have now added heparin (to thin his sluggish blood to make it move faster) and have praised him because this time, due to his recognizing the symptoms he only had “minimal kidney damage.”

    So who’s at fault? The doctors for not addressing the elephant in the living room or my husband for not taking control of his own life?

    There is no incentive for the doctors to lead my husband to health, they would lose a regular patient, the hospitals would lose a paying customer, and the pharmaceutical industry would lose job security.

    There is no incentive for my husband to put down the doughnut because the Doctors like humpty dumpty keep putting him back together with another drug, another procedure. There is not enough pain to initiate a personal life changing gain.

    There needs to be a mind change in the health system. Not only does preventive care need to be practiced and emphasized, but doctors need to be rewarded for keeping their patients healthy. There needs to be honor in achieving health both on the part of the Doctor and the patient.

    And patients need to step up to the plate. Their health is not their doctor’s responsibility; it lies solely in their hands and is a direct consequence of how they decide to live their lives.

  6. Midge Edmond August 25, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    Excellent review of the whole issue!! Recently I have been assisting folks with their Medicare insurance needs and have been shocked to see how many people have Type 2 Diabetes. Everyone is taking a laundry list of medications including statins, depression meds and of course diabetes meds. And everyone is more overweight than the next. It is actually depressing to me!!!
    As you keep saying there needs to be a complete change in thinking across the board because little fixes aren’t making any difference! I was in a truck stop last night and was reminded of your comments in your video as I walked on circles trying to find food and drink that was acceptable for our sugar free, carb free, fried free diet! Without obvious, easy choices I’m afraid we will continue to lose the battle!
    Please keep banging the drums! So many of us are trying to help too!!
    Would love to be part of that paid army as I was been unemployed/underemployed myself for the last 4 years!
    Praying for you!

  7. Barbara C. Clark August 25, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    I totally agree with Dr. Hyman. We have been dealing with a broken medical system for way too long — Drs. writing scripts for everything has brought the takeover of the pharmaceutical industry-we’re masking symptoms and not getting to the root of medical issues, and causing more. Both parents and children need to be aware and taught about natural health and nutrition. I feel it needs to be mandatory and taught in our schools. This is just one thing we can start to do. Sadly, it must be manadatory for anyone going in the health care industry to be taught as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have self-diagnosed and “cured myself” over the years with a changed diet, exercise and the right supplements and herbs. The only thing Drs. wanted to do was run unnecessary tests and write scripts….
    Chronic disease in this country is in epidemic levels because of the way health care has been.
    Thanks to Drs. like Dr. Hyman, we are on the right track….however it will be a long time (I’m afraid) before things change.

  8. Laure; August 25, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    This is EXACTLY what I have been saying for 2 years now!! The Affordable Care Act is essentially a bill that pays for surgery and pharmaceuticals – the two things that are usually more harm than good – and usually don’t “cure” anything. I personally believe we should be going in the OPPOSITE direction. We should be paying for all the things that the bill doesn’t allow (like homeopathy, physical therapy, naturopathy, chiropractic, etc), that actually create health and wellness and stop paying for dangerous drugs and useless surgery that oftentimes leaves a person weaker than before.

    Off topic a little I believe this bill was a gift to the pharmecutical industry and AARP…but I digress…

  9. Midge Edmond August 25, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    By the way, my husband’s diabetes has been completely eliminated in the last 4 months by following “The Blood Sugar Solution” diet! He is down 50 pounds and so many symptoms have been reversed. Including early onset dementia! And I’ve lost 25 lbs too! The food is amazing and the “diet” easy to follow. Let’s do this thing people!!

  10. MM August 25, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Dr Hyman:

    I am a follower and a believer in the fight against diabesity. Because I believe so strongly in this I began a holistic nutrition/ health coach program that trains me to help people to change their lives. I look forward to graduating and helping others in their quest to become healthy.

    I am always looking for seminars and other educational opportunities to supplement my program. I was very excited about a nutrition seminar you and your functional medicine colleagues announced on your web site. I hoped to attend until I saw that only RD’s are invited. I hope that you will eventually see the value in holistic nutrition coaches so that we too can get the most recent scientific information necessary to help our clients. I do have a masters in counseling psychology and would prefer to not have to spend another two years in school just to be invited to these valuable seminars.

  11. Madeleine August 25, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    As always, Dr. Hyman, you’re right on target. Unfortunately, the problem is not a medical one but a political one. How do we break the hold of the drug industry lobby? If everyone followed your recommendations, the pharmaceutical companies would lose billions of dollars. They profit by keeping people sick. I am 65 years old and not taking a single prescription drug or any OTCs either. But my health insurance won’t pay for all the nutritional supplements I buy every month. And don’t even talk to me about Medicare. I am grateful to be still working so that I don’t have to fall back on that sad excuse for health coverage.

    • Telzey Amberdon August 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

      I’m in my mid fifties & work two part-time jobs to make ends meet, and neither have any medical benefits. I’m operating without a net here. I was laid off from my very well-paid job when I hit fifty (one week after my birthday) and they installed a 22 year old fresh out of school in my place. I’d give ANYTHING to have even just that “sad” excuse for health coverage, Medicare, but am sure our lovely politicians will decide the populace is too “entitled” and needs to be punished for our hubris by taking it away from us by the time I’m your age. Meanwhile, our politicians have excellent healthcare. I want the healthcare our politicians have, in fact, I want every single US citizen to have access to their healthcare. That would mean the healthcare industry would be paying out what used to be their huge profits on their customers, us, instead of pocketing it. When easy windfall profits are taken out of healthcare, they’ll be more interested in keeping their customers healthy rather than paying out money on constant chronic illness.

  12. Christopher K. Nagy, M.D. August 25, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Great article and you are exactly right. I have tried to contact you three times (including writing The Daniel Plan) about some recommendations/advice about implementing a similar program in my community of 30,000 and am still waiting for the first response. I realize you are very busy and I fully believe and embrace your message. When a physician (or anybody for that matter) is seriously asking for help in putting these thoughts into practice, it might be nice to walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. I am not interested in signing on as a salesperson via your supplement line but would like to know if you have any resources to help implement these programs in other communities?
    I do not mean to be disrespectful but am frustrated with the lack of acknowledgement (positive or negative) to help get programs such as this off of the ground. Your message is great, lets continue to get it out there. I’m working on it and putting the pieces together but don’t know that re-inventing the wheel is the best way either. We can and should do better.
    http://signup.thetruthplan.com/

    • Profile photo of HymanStaff
      HymanStaff September 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      Thank you for your message. This is not something we have a formulaic plan for as of yet. Communities have developed plans, such as Saddleback Church, that are very successful.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  13. cindy August 25, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Just wrote a letter to First Lady Michelle Obama urging her to put together a national campaign to appeal to our kids on these same issues of lifestyle changes. It is not enough to know the facts about healthy eating – we need to appeal to people on an emotional level – they need to identify with an image of healthy living in order for the changes to become self-sustaining. We need a couple of clear straight-forward directives that slowly move people in the direction of change – (i.e. substitute water for soda) broad statements like Get Healthy or Make Healthy Choices don’t work, it leaves too much wiggle room. This message needs to come at people from every direction. People need to understand as you have pointed out, that they are not just affecting their quality of health and longevity by how they choose to live but they are affecting the nation’s financial, economic and military state as well. There is a great book called “Switch” that highlights how to successfully invoke major change – there are lots of great ideas detailing how companies and communities have implemented major changes and I think they could be applied to moving our nation in a healthy direction. Have lots of suggestions – too difficult to detail in this space. Will send a copy of the letter sent to the White House. Thanks for all you do to help inform people about healthy living.

  14. Jeri Zerr August 25, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    THIS IS PERHAPS THE BEST WRITTEN ARTICLE INDICATING HOW OUR MANAGED DISEASE CARE SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE OVERHAULED.

    This neither a democrat nor republican strategy. This is simply an achievable strategy to stem the tidal wave impacting our society. Our citizens are fatigued, sick, financially sinking and popping more pills than ever yet spiraling down the path of self-destruction.

    My husband and I have learned these lessons the hard way. I watched in horror as a medical team “accidentally killed him” and then thankfully resuscitated him over a heart disease treatment gone very very wrong. We have since learned how to CURE his type 2 diabetes with simple and easy to maintain lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements. If we could figure this out and CURE diabetes on our own, then why hasn’t the disease foundations such as the American Diabetes Association? Afterall, they have the billions of dollars, we do not.

    As Dr. Hyman outlines here, this is very doable. There is an awakening, people WANT to be healthier, they just do not know where to start. Personally my husband and I have gathered a group of like-minded friends and we share information and encourage one another to improve ourselves. It doesn’t take money to encourage your friends and associates.

    JOIN US for healthier lifestyles! Start your own local groups at work, at play, at pray and most importantly, at home.

  15. John Weeks August 25, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    Fine piece, Mark. Was struck first by your focus on health reform from “the demand side,” a favorite theme in my own writing, which I recently rolled out in a piece on Brain Berman’s integrative medicine center at U Maryland. (See “Integration from the demand side: U Maryland Integrative Center moves into corporate wellness” here:http://theintegratorblog.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=825&Itemid=189.) I particularly like your suggestion for a major federal program with community health workers. Take it to Michele Obama!

  16. Ellie August 25, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    This is a very good article clearly pointing in the right direction in caring for diabetes. What I read into it more than the process of care is the responsibility of care. People tend to be lazy and look for the easiest way of handling their health by depending on the medical profession to “fix” their diabetes.

    No matter what care is available we need to recognize our individual responsibly to ourselves and our children who are learning by our example. It’s truly the only way to attack this horrible disease. If we blame health care, we also have to blame the food companies for supplying unhealthy food to the grocery store. We need to blame the advertisement companies who encourage us to eat the wrong foods. We have to blame the bakeries and the candy shops and most of all the restaurants that offer unhealthy meals.

    The real blame is in our own personal choices. We are so very fortunate to have the “right stuff” available to make the “right choice”. The “wrong stuff” will disappear if we don’t buy it. We have support groups if we chose to use them. We have knowledgeable Doctors like Dr. Hyman who can coach us in how to best handle diabetes with positive results.

    We are here. We have made a right choice. Spread the word!

    • Gail August 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      In the United States, supply and demand have made noticeable changes in the food industry. Some of the changes have been good and not so good. A more educated person could effect more changes. For example, when the food pyramid changes years ago making pasta king and people bought into it, all you would hear about and see on the shelves was pasta pasta pasta. The food industry responded….unfortunately the information that the public had was flawed. Another example is the demand for Greek yogurt. Now… that is what is mostly on the shelves in the store. NY is trying to declare themselves as the Yogurt Capital of the US. The food industry responded….however an educated consumer still has to read the labels since some are not making the pure forms. When the craze for non fat items was the mantra of the general public… due to faulty info… the food industry responded in leaps and bounds. That is what predominated the shelves. Even if one wasn’t originally aware of the “theory”, seeing it readily available made new “converts”. Notice the amount of shelf and space now available for “health food” sections in your store. That is a new phenomenon also…. again, labels have to be read… brought about supply and demand and a public that is becoming better informed.

      Imagine a new era of correct health information which would drive the supply and demand by the public. Where places like Whole Foods and other dedicated healthier supermarkets would exist. Imagine where your own supermarket would be transformed. Then imagine where the supply and demand makes prices go down so that it is affordable by most if not all. Then imagine where the pharmaceutical companies respond and produce safe and effective supplements and those who produce unsafe supplements or questionable formulations would have to improve or go out of business.

      Imagine the work of functional medicine and it’s practioners being mainstream. Imagine that they are the ones to refer to doctors and pharmacists for the extremely rare medical conditions that have no other solutions. Imagine US and worldwide health changing!!!

      The changes are occurring already…with the help of Dr. Hyman, Dr. Oz, Dr. Amen, et al. Even media attention is slowly showing a change in emphasis. The steps we take in our own lives will create the need, which will provide the supply which will create the demand,

  17. Auntiegrav August 25, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Thanks Doc. I’ve been saying for quite some time that people don’t need health insurance: they need good health.
    As Madelaine says above, it is a political problem. Especially a political money problem. If we want Change, we have to stop voting for the status quo with every dollar we spend on big box stores and drug companies, and spend our money on healthy food. These dollars are the only votes that count in a capitalist/fascist system.
    Yes, sorry to say it, but the Obamacare plan (Gingrichcare, actually) is fascism, not socialism. Socialism would mean that people worked together to solve a problem that benefits them and the commons. Fascism is when people are forced to pay corporations for something without a government representing them and setting the price. When the prices are set by the corporate status quo, and the government is only forcing everyone into the pool, it’s Mussolini’s Corporatism.

    That said, I believe something had to be done, and at least we got people to become more engaged in the issue. Now, they just have to become informed about it, which is NOT going to come from a corporate-owned entertainment system that utilizes false controversy to sell cars and sugar.

  18. melanie August 25, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Amen! I agree with one of the other comments – if you were to create an outline of the program used in Saddleback, personal trainers, holistic nutritionists, nurses, etc. could carry on your work in their own communities. Even a rough outline could be helpful and you could chose whether to associate your name with the program or not. (thinking that without training the individual teachers, you may not want to do so).

    Thank you for the good work you do.

  19. MIchael Lee August 25, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Mark this is one of the best articles you have ever written. Very clear and very convincing. I also appreciate that it transcends partisan politics, as this issue should. Health is something of concern to all of us. As is the cost of health care. We do need a bi-partisan approach as well as local initiatives. The church project is evidence of how powerful change can be implemented at a local level. Keep up the good work and keep spreading the word. Articles like this can’t be help to get people thinking and hopefully willing to try new strategies.

    Cheers and best,

    Michael Lee, MA
    Founder – Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy
    http://www.pryt.com

  20. Leah Pauls August 25, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly!

    What about food stamps? I don’t know about the rest of the US, but in California, food stamps can pay for junk food. So the poorest among us, like Hansel and Gretel, are led, lured and duped into buying cheap, processed, preservative and sugar filled foods (i.e. poisons) all subsidized by the government. What’s worse, many health foods, including supplements, are NOT covered by food stamps.

    This blatant contradiction of values raises some suspicions. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d think the government intentionally ignores this factor in a deliberate effort to fatten and weaken the people…to what end?

  21. Natalie August 25, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I agree 100%. I live in Canada but it applies here as well. Is there some way we can get your information to all representatives of both Governments?

  22. Barbara Youhn August 25, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    It’s taken me a long time to really get off the junk food. I think I’m finally on the right path.
    Now, I hope to see improvement in my health.
    My problem is: everyone around me thinks I’m nuts. I make delicious grilled vegetables with thyme and walnut oil and my family won’t touch it. ” We eat potatoes and meat” is their answer.
    It’s going to be a long, hard battle to get people to break old habits.

  23. Linda August 25, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Following your guidelines in your books and blogs, I have so far lost 21 pounds and dropped my A1c from 6.3 to 5.3. Working to get it under 5.0!

  24. Nancy Witt August 25, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    First of all, thank you for your words, and for your actions. Turning around this behemoth of a health (not) care “ship” is going to take many small and determined tugboats…You are one very determined tugboat, Dr. Hyman, please keep it up.

    I was interested in what Debbie wrote about her small church. I used to live close to Saddleback and understand the opportunity of size and scale it presented in being able to make a statement about the change that is possible. Debbie brings up a good point. How about creating a model for use in any size church or group? And then, considering what MM wrote about being discouraged at not being able to get trained as a lay person…how about a system for training those “barefoot doctors?”

    I have been in heath care as a physical therapist for over 40 years, and one of the parts of the behemoth health care ship that gets in the way is our over-blown legal system and the liability question…but the concept of developing barefoot health care is an interesting one…at this point, there is a barefoot movement out there that eschews processed and toxic food, that supports organic farming, that supports the humane and pasture raising of livestock…the way to view our current health care dilemma is to take the broadest possible view of our food, our lifestyles, and our very concept of what health means. The answer is actually simple…doesn’t really require people with PhD’s or, even MD’s. It requires retooling of our understanding of how health happens. “We the People” have been sold a bill of goods over many decades now…monoculture farms, widespread use of pesticides and herbicides, factory farming, the expectation of cheap food, processed food, the upsizing of portions in the restaurant industry…all of which has spawned the wild growth of the pharmaceutical industry in response to the increasing illness of the people.

    I think that everyday people can turn this around. Your writings, Dr. Hyman, and your actions, speak for themselves. How can people, how can small groups of people become the tugboats that push and pull this behemoth system around?

    What about creating a curriculum for barefoot docs, for grassroots organizations like churches and food coops to begin to use to educate and organize? It is very clear that Uncle Sam and the pols do not care one whit about health. They all seem to think there are bigger fish to fry…bigger farm-raised fish that have no nutritive value. We the People need to rise up!

    Thanks again, and keep on with what you are doing!

  25. lori August 25, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Amen to personal choices. There seems to be power in numbers. The people that are learning need people making good choices to help support them and show it can be done. Start by cooking well for your own families. You can make every day a special occasion, so it’s not a great excuse to cheat. Better to set daily/weekly guidelines that you try to follow regardless of the situation. Ex; If you allow sugar, make it 1x week and plan for it. Also need more pages that support the lifestyle and allow people to check in, share their stories, frustrations, successes, recipes…..

  26. Linda C August 25, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    For Debbie G who wrote 8/25 7am–Go to Saddleback.com for website for Saddleback Church. They using “The Daniel Plan” esp for churches. You can see the clips with Dr Oz and Rick Warren.

    Looking at the political fix our healthcare system is in, I finally decided I had to find a new way to get my weight down since I don’t want to be one of the people who are “unselected” for treatments because I’m not a good “return on investment” if I am heavy and out of shape.

    I am in my 5th week with the UltraSimple plan (eliminates most known food allergy items) and have lost 15 pounds. It’s great since I don’t count calories, just keep saying “if it has an ingredient list don’t eat it.” Since I have been so addicted to sugar and flour and chocolate, I wanted to just continue after the 7 day plan. Will slowly begin adding items back in, checking to see if I can now tell I have an allergic reaction so something. I think I must have thought I had a lot of “dust” allergies the way I have sneezed! Maybe not dust/pollen but foods! So VERY VERY much of my aching and stiffness are already gone! And hardly every think about chocolate! Whee! Thanks, Dr Hyman!

  27. barbara August 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    obamacare is a joke and not a funny one. For starters, it stripped $716 million dollars from Medicare to fund itself, guaranteeing that Medicare will not be able to service its subscribers. Democrats say that the $716 million is a ‘savings’ as the cut reimbursements to doctors and facilities will be lower. Like that is a good thing to lower already low reimbursements. So we will have fewer docs and hospitals participating, restricting healthcare for seniors further. So the plan to provide better healthcare results in LESS healthcare. And rationing due to the board who determines if your life is worth the cost of a procedure. Government at its finest.
    Dr. H. is correct. We need to take personal responsibility and fix ourselves to the best of our ability, and we do not have a HEALTHcare system- we have a SICKNESScare system, now and in the future.
    What I have noticed from the beginning of the healthcare debates: Preventative medicine is not covered. Such as supplements, massage therapy, acupuncture, and any other modality you may want to implement to regain your health. What a lost opportunity. That could have been included and incentivized.

  28. Anne August 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I agree that we need to teach people lifestyle and behavior change. Teaching people how to shop and cook healthy is pivotal to what I do as a holistic nutritionist.

    This is a critical issue we need to address head on NOW. The insurance model does not work for prevention at all. We need a new one. My suggestion is to expand the health savings accounts to everyone and put a 3500 – 5000 a year max. that can be used for many more services we know that keep people healthy, reduce stress and create balance. Right now the only two conditions some insurance companies re-reimburse for nutritional counseling are diabetics and clinical obesity. We need the system to get to people early – before they are in full blown diabetes or morbidly obese.

    Can you imagine the impact on true health not to mention the increase in work and jobs for people like me a nutritionist as well as yoga instructors, trainers,healthy chefs & cooking programs….just to name a few?

    I’d like to know if I could have permission to re-post your entire post on my website/blog?

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff September 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      HI Anne,

      Thank you for your interest in Dr Hyman’s work. As long as you site Dr Hyman’s work I think it should be fine!

  29. barbara August 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    SO SORRY! That is $716 BILLION DOLLARS cut from Medicare. My typo. oops!

  30. Jim Lewis August 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Dear Doctor Hyman,
    I am convinced your thesis is correct and could help most people suffering from obesity and diabetes. I think you and like minded important medical professionals, the major media and health/excercise oriented corporations need to really put the message out through advertising and sponsering events.

    In addition I believe you, Dr. Oz. Dr. Weill and other prominent medical professionals need to lobby Congress to start ‘The Health Corps”. This would be a partnership with government to fund individuals to go out in their communities to do the ground level work needed to get people on the program and healthy lifestyle. It’s a big task. I have lots of good ideas and would welcome sharing them with you.

    Sincerely,
    Jim Lewis

    • Taylor Walsh September 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

      Jim, you are so right about organizing around the proof in the outcomes that Mark describes, and which others here have described in their own lives. But we don’t want this done by the feds, in my view. Something more like AAA, in which the value and demand is expressed by individuals, as consumers, as nutritionists, as active in a parallel system of health that thrives, as Doc Hyman says, outside the clinic. In that “system” well informed consumer decisions replace tests and prescriptions and maybe puts some balance into health care.

  31. Michele August 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    I agree with you in terms of shifting the health care perspective from disease driven to health driven. This is not the medical society Americans adopt however. Until each individual takes full responsibility for individual health and parents make it priority to take full responsibility for the dietary needs of children, health care will continue as a system that encourages individuals to delegate their health and welfare to the state. We will always need physicians; this group of professionals have gone from being altruistic to capitalists in a mere 30 years. Politics is not the answer to the health concerns of the nation but health care is politicized now; Obama – or any president – can only address the economic aspect of it in a way that Americans can relate. We get caught between regulation of national commerce and capitalistic drivers that need us to be sick and on drugs. Just how many of us really take responsibility for our health and welfare instead of thinking doctors have the cure, drugs are magic pills or can allow us guise our problems, and politicians need to change the way things are for us to be healthy? The only party that does not profit in the health care system is the patient…the system and everyone involved in it is all about the money. We are the only ones talking about health.

  32. Profile photo of Shirley holloway
    Shirley holloway August 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I fully agree. Problem is not many people are willing to do what it takes. I am trying to get there. I rarely get sick. I do have two prescription drugs. Armour thyroid and eye drops for glaucoma. Both diseases I Inherited from parents. Even with my very low need for doctors I could not afford evn that without some insurance. So my daily exercise, super healthy diet, is not enough.

  33. Gay N. Gooen August 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Yes, yes, and yes! It all makes sense, Mark. And you probably have the knowledge and the power to start the next step — which, to my way of thinking, is to begin a grass roots small groups-style process where eight to ten people can get together, dialogue, and then, impact others in their own circles by providing education and motivation to care for themselves in more healthy ways. Why not consider something like this? If we can start local groups, we might just develop the groundswell that is necessary to create change.

    Best,

    Gay N. Gooen

    • Marianne August 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      TO Gay and everyone,

      Your idea is amazing! I think we all have to take charge and try to educate everyone we come into contact with. I just completed a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University so that I have the credentials to teach healthy eating to the masses of people who listen to the ads on TV and consume way too much poison…sugar and more sugar, prescription medication, and processed foods, etc. I am a psychologist and have combined diet and nutrition in my practice because there is a strong connection between the mind and body, as so nicely put in The UltraMind Solution and other books, such as ones by Dr. Daniel Amen. Most conventional doctors are NOT trained in nutrition in medical school, so we cannot depend on them to tell us how to eat well. Plus, with the way doctor’s offices are managed these days, and the influence of the insurance companies – Medicare included, they do not have time to talk to their patients about these things. Pill pushing (and surgery) has become the norm I am sorry to say.

      In my quest to educate as many people as I can, I have been giving out free of charge to my clients, friends, and acquaintances the DVD “Eating” by Mike Anderson. I have also promoted Dr. Hyman’s books as well as The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. I have had really great feedback about these resources and find that people are making changes and it is paying off for them! I also gave out the DVD by Jeff Novick called “Fast Food” because people complain that it is too expensive to cook healthy meals and too time consuming. “Fast Food” shows people how to cook a delicious healthy meal in 10 to 15 minutes for $25 a week per person. it is a very concrete and hands on approach. i like it a lot!

      I am also developing a course called Food for Life to help people learn to develop healthy eating habits. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine” and I truly believe that the majority of the people out there do NOT know how to put the right foods at the end of their forks and that many are addicted to sugar, fat, and salt. The Pleasure Principle is at work in America! In all of my extensive readings, it seems as if we are being controlled by Big Pharma, Big Ag, and Big Medicine, the politicians as well and nothing is going to change unless the word gets out. Thanks to Dr. Hyman, Dr. Mercola and others who are trying to make a change!

      • Philomina August 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

        I agree with Gay and Marianne and everyone who is thinking of doing some of the things Gay and Marianne are planning to do or something very close to that. Personally I think may be taking one person at a time considering our bioindividuality and then eventually forming a group might be the way to go. As a certified holistic health coach, to help, I offer a free health history consultation to any one interested and we go from there. That would help me to know what each person’s health issues are and I will be able to support the person as he/she makes healthy food and lifestyles choices.

        My website is http://www.mynaturalhealingability.com I can work with anyone over the phone, via e-mails or skype. I was trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York and certified with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

  34. Peter Donovan August 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Dr Hyman, you are so right in saying that we wont solve out health issues and rising costs with another PILL but we can change this by deciding what we put on the end of our fork and how we keep fit. My question to you and other experts that support your findings is how can you/we get more powerful lobbyists on our side than those of the dairy and meat organizations. If we win the lobbyist war i think the politicians and population are ready to fall in line and change what we put on our Fork. What are your thoughts about the role of the lobbyists and how they can help or hinder us in eradicating diabesity?

    Thanks

    Peter

  35. Eva Putnam August 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    RE: fat on the body —- like dirt, bad breath, stinky feet

    Thank you, Dr Hyman!

    Thanks to you, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Lustig and many others, we have access to REAL information. My docs NEVER tell me anything… They never asked me about my diet!! How can it be? They do not care… If not all info from internet, I would be shooting insulin today. I became pre-diabetic (after my father) two years ago but found out about sugar and simple carbs and my numbers after meals after below 110 and I could not be more happy. My husband and I are trying to get the word out and made a sign in front of our business:
    “Paleo diet can reverse diabetes 2″
    http://www.bigpinesrv.com/paleod.jpg
    for anybody to see.

    Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D. in his “Sugar, the bitter truth” lecture I found on YouTube coined the above saying.
    He saved my life! In my appreciation, I want to help others…

    Dr. Hyman is right. No healthcare will help us if do not help ourselves! Dr. Mercola calls our healthcare system a DiseaseCare and he is right. Prevention is the only way. If you are reading this, you are IN. It’s like preaching to the choir! How to access minds of soft drinks, french fries, grains, shakes, prepared foods eaters?!

    I had a couple of floor inspectors in our house today (bought defective flooring) and I told them everything I could about my green juicing, sugar, gluten in grains. One of them was 100 lb overweight. Hope that he will take some of what I said to his heart…

    I think and talk about diet every day. I am obsessed. You know what I think? I cannot be more “amazed” when I see, for example, a woman who is 250 lb with her hair and nails done, full makeup, nice clothes wallowing out of her clean and expensive vehicle! What is she thinking? How can someone allow to look like a monster, to neglect his/her own body while taking care of other less important things???? Setting aside the health issues, the looks maybe is what needs to be addressed… How about if we as a society would perceive fat on the body like dirt, bad breath, stinky feet? Neglect, disgrace, shame???

    I do not know what else to do?

  36. Amy LaBossiere August 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Thank you for a very comprehensive and well-stated article. I hope you will send a signed copy of this to Michelle Obama. I would imagine that she supports your work. Maybe someone in Washington will pay attention. Unfortunately, government is more about supporting deep-pocket businesses instead of the collective good, so we have to individually help ourselves and each other, one person at a time.

    More and more people are listening to food as medicine and realize that the government is not going to feed us what’s good for us. We must do it for ourselves. When enough of us meet at the tipping point, there will be change.

    I feel for those who cannot understand how what they eat correlates to their health. Allopathic medicine certainly has its place, but we need to swing the pendulum back to personal responsibility. Let us eat more fresh vegetables and fruit, drink the purest water we can find, move our bodies and do what we can to create happiness in our lives! May everyone strive for this wonderful state of being, so we will collectively heal.

  37. Dierdre Ragin August 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Dr. Hyman,
    I absolutely agree with you. Prevention is the key. It’s too late once sickness is diagnosed. The whole system needs to be revamped. Revamped without the influence of pharmaceutical companies and big food companies (Monsanto). Not enough incentives are given for prevention and companies are not requiring preventative healtcare. Most employees know there are some incentives but not enough of them take advantage of what’s available to them. More influence needs to be put on this. There are so many practices that could be implemented to ‘change mindsets’ but getting the people who could make these changes is another story. We need a major overhaul.

  38. Marnie August 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Where do I begin? I agree with so much of the article and the comments here. So many valid points. But seems we need to address some big elephants in the room before we can expect everyone to stop making bad choices. I agree with the person who said it’s largely politics. How can we place so much of the blame on individuals, when every institution in this country promotes the industrial food complex by 1) making the addictive, chemically processed, artificially flavored and colored “food products” available to us and in our faces everywhere we go? and 2) our government agencies meant to protect us from unsafe food and drugs is in cahoots with the profit-driven, processed, industrial “food” corporations and pharmaceutical companies?

    When offered a healthy choice (and, no, a granola bar with high fructose corn syrup and a list of 35 other indecipherable ingredients is not health food, or even real food), people who are MISINFORMED AND ADDICTED will, of course, choose the garbage. When you invite an alcoholic over for dinner, you don’t offer him a choice of water and non-alcoholic beer, then spike the beer and scold him for choosing the beer and becoming intoxicated. Duh… Misinformed and addicted individuals will only choose the healthy food when 2 things happen: they receive the correct information about what their bodies need and don’t need to support health, and the garbage is REMOVED from our culture. I work in a hospital. The “food” available to patients and visitors is deplorable. There is a hot dog / chips / soda stand in the outdoor courtyard. I was told by a registered dietician that MSG is completely safe. “It’s just a flavor enhancer!”

    Our government and its agencies, our medical and nutrition schools, our “health care” organizations, profit-driven insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and greedy processed food corporations have all quietly succeeded at getting us sick and addicted, ignoring evidence of the dangers so they can protect profits and the status quo, then have the audacity to pretend they are helping us. Yes, I believe strongly in personal responsibility, educating oneself, taking charge of one’s own health. Yet, the deck is stacked so heavily against us as a population by the greed and irresponsibility and denial of those responsible for creating this problem in the first place. How can we get THOSE people to be accountable?

  39. Barbara August 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    When we follow the money, which is what rules in our society, it’s plain that it’s It’s not just big Pharma that we’re up against, but also Big Food, that is making billions selling the food full of those addictive carbs that hook people (much like the cigarette companies did with nicotine) and that eventually makes people sick. Big food (PepsiCo, Philip Morris, Coca Cola,General Mills, Kraft, Nestle, Mars, Kellogg, etc., etc.) can harness the power of advertising to persuade people that their products are wholesome, fun, sexy, and to make people crave them. With all the advertising dollars on the side of these big corporations, who will speak for poor old science and public health? How can we fund that message? I would like to see a modern day tithe system, that corporations had to pay to gain access to U.S. markets. If a portion of the money spent bombarding people with TV ads about the coolness of Coke had to be set aside and given to public health groups to produce and broadcast messages about the health effects of sugary drinks, etc., the public could perhaps be better able to resist unhealthy food choices.

  40. Patricia Kelley August 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Brilliant–and so nice to hear this from a physician. I am a Big Changes Wholeness Coach and am currently working with people who have cancer, with a compete Mind-Body-Spirit approach to stopping, healing and preventing cancer. All information is not mine, but researched from great, legitimate, science based studies, that are totally ignored by the majority of doctors. After all, cancer is their “business” plan…and if it is prevented and healed via nutrition, where is the million dollar lifestyle going to come from? So, instead we get automatic slash, burn and poison treatment options.

    I agree with you Dr. Hyman–the whole system needs to be changed to one of prevention and health. Until then, the powers that be in the multi-billion dollar cancer (and overall health) industry ( Big Pharma, FDA, and others) run the show and the results are sad so far.

    My own doctor told me he couldn’t talk to me about natural methods known to heal breast cancer “for liability reasons” and acknowledge he knew next to nothing about nutrition or supplements. How damned sad–and it was an awakening for me. I dove into the science and research to heal my own experience of breast cancer and it has fired me up and inspired me to help others empower their own ability to heal–and at the very least, take control of their health by not allowing medical professionals to make decisions for them.

    http://thechangeteacher.com/breast-cancer-coaching/ ( A free and very informative webinar on stopping, healing and preventing cancer via a mind/body/spirit approach coming very soon)

    Nearly everything I have learned applies to wholeness and health across the board..what heals and prevents cancer also works to heal and prevent diabesity and other dis-eases. A new way is being called for in a new world.

    I love your articles and approach. Maybe we can collaborate in the future. Let me know if you’d like to discuss.

    Patricia

  41. Hope August 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Yes, I totally agree with Dr Hyman. We need to shift toward True Health Care and stay away from Sick Care. In our family, we’ve been eating real food, I mean real, fresh fruits and veggies for years. None of us have ever visited any doctors at all. While eating real food, food becomes your medicine. Your body can heal itself.

  42. Tricia Lovegrove August 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Although I am Canadian, I see the picture Dr. Heimen paints with his article. For myself, I am 43, totally blind and a four-time cancer survivor. I am a Registered Massage Therapist, and keep my ears open for information about alternative medicine in general.

    I accept that conventional medicine does have its place. The problem is, it has clearly gone too far, and also gone off the rails with regards to its focus. Perhaps there was a time when the aim was to help people to regain and maintain optimal health. Somewhere along the way, however, that focus shifted to lining the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies by keeping folks sick enough to need drugs, surgery, etc., yet healthy enough to work in order to pay for these things. I agree that the focus must shift again, from treating symptoms to tackling the cause of disease. I say, the money that goes into drug research should instead go towards researching and promoting alternative medicine. It may be TCM, Massage Therapy, Herbology or lifestyle changes, who’s to say?
    Nutrition therapy is a must as well.
    In conclusion, it’s clear from this article that major changes in focus are needed when it comes to health care. The aim does need to be wellness and prevention, not just symptomatic relief.

  43. maryanne August 25, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Well said, very clear and precise I hope people will see this and understand.
    Thank you,
    Maryanne

  44. Nirit Yadin August 26, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    I was invited to a community-based health initiative. I was amazed to find out that a was the only food professional and the rest were very traditional healthcare professionals.

    My impression was that for those well-meaning people treating a disease seemed easier than preventing it and they wanted to invest their limited resources in what is known and familiar – conventional healthcare.

    I think the efforts should be directed into grassroots movement to reclaim our health, just like the grassroots movement that helped Obama get elected.

  45. Heidi Rasmussen MD August 26, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    I am a family physician. I work in a rural community with very limited resources. We are being mandated toward “patient centered medical home.” This all seems like a good idea, but I believe that it will ultimately increase our administrative overhead and detract from real patient care. What we are doing is not what our patients really need. It seems like a good idea to hold me accountable for getting my diabetic patients to goal. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to achieve this.

    Our community has no grocery store. Many of my patients get their groceries at the dollar store or the convenience store at the gas station. Nutrition referral? Often not covered. Not accessible. The nutritionists who are available are not educated in teaching people about whole foods. And if they were, the patients wouldn’t be able to access it. It is hard to get my patients to goal when they are sustaining themselves on ramen noodles and whatever pack of cookies or chips is on sale this week.

    But this isn’t just about obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. If we are able to focus on wellness and community, giving people the spiritual center they really need, it will impact their health on many levels.

    Dr. Hyman, I would be very interested in any resources you might have available. I know there are thousands of communities out there like this. Physicians are struggling on the front lines every day to make an impact. I don’t believe this is a battle that will be won in the political arena. Perhaps if we could implement specific programs like you are suggesting in a few communities, we could demonstrate a working model and then expand it.

    • Philomina August 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      Hi Dr. Rasmussen, I can relate to what you say. Considering that you are not taught nutrition in medical school.

      “The nutritionists who are available are not educated in teaching people about whole foods” I think what you need is a certified holistic health coach not only a nutritionist because holistic health coach would not only talk about whole foods but would also discuss lifestyle (physical, mental/emotional and spiritual) which I call primary foods.

  46. eileen v pearson August 26, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    We are all born with a free will. To lose weight we have to decide for ourselves to take the actions needed for this purpose.It is quite simple. Eat very small portions,ie one cupful at each meal. Eat only healthy food. Get plenty of exercise. Keep away from alcohol. Don´t go near temptation,such as parties, supermarkets, sweet or ice cream shops.

  47. Supporting a movement... August 26, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    I am loving this dialogue. Gay I like the way you are thinking in terms of – “what action can we take?”
    I really appreciate the outline provided by Mark in the article although many of these tasks require access and influence that many of us who are passionate about this do not have. I actually do have some access/influence in a large health care system who is RIPE for this but am not sure what steps to take. This kind of change needs to start at the top. This is hard work and is in a totally different paradigm than people are currently in (not to mention flying in the face of current financial incentives). I have visions of Mark meeting with key members of the leadership team and talking about opportunities to roll out a Saddleback like program with the 9 million members (explaining why this could support wellness of patients, our health system, and eventually individual health care complany cost structures). I also have thoughts about how to roll out Functional Medicine training to the 12,000 physicians in the group practice. The doctors are not well. The executives of our organization are all overweight (talking about obesity!). Sadly the power is in their hands. I truly believe if they can learn this and see the results of this on their own health and loved ones – we will move this way more quickly than waiting for multiple clinical trials to influence mainstream medical practice. I focus on mainstream medical practice because this is the care that people have access to. Most people can’t afford Mark or other functional medicine practitioners as their insurance does not cover it. Or if they choose to pay and see a “functional medicine” practitioner it is hard to know who to see (quality assurance) and many of us spend so much money and time before finding the right fit. Maybe never even getting the results.

    • Philomina August 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      “The doctors are not well. The executives of our organization are all overweight (talking about obesity!). Sadly the power is in their hands. I truly believe if they can learn this and see the results of this on their own health and loved ones – we will move this way more quickly than waiting for multiple clinical trials to influence mainstream medical practice.

      “True, however, I am willing to work with any of the doctors who is interested so that they can have a good feeling of a holistic health coach approach and see the results on their own health as well as understand how that could compliment their practices. The doctors and the holistic health coaches have different tools which if use together would produce outcome (healing) faster. Again, my website is http://www.mynaturalhealingability.com check it out.

  48. Supporting a movement continued... August 26, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    One additional thought…
    This discussion is about change. I think about change management approaches that I have learned and how they apply here. I wonder:

    What are the key outcomes we are seeking?
    How would we measure them?
    Who influences decisions that would drive that change?
    Who are all the stakeholders and what do they need to be on board? Marks suggestions in the article are “right on” but I want to be able to click on each idea and have a page with a toolkit or resources (happy to help build this).

    Thinking about stakeholders…..
    – Individuals – we have heard some suggestions – living by example, sharing the message, shaming the sick/fat to motivate, grass roots
    – Communities – community organizing let by churches for example i.e Saddleback, I think people are willing to do this but they need help. The ‘Weight of the Nation’ effort does offer some.
    – Health Care Systems – my post above talks about this
    – Politicians – who respond to demand from constituents and industry – so I kind of agree with the person who said the answer may not be here unless politicians are using their influence to affect community and individual behavior…
    I don’t have this all flushed out but I started to think about how most successful movements require clarity of purpose (outcomes- i.e. the right to vote) and a strategy that targets multiple facets that affect change.

  49. Mike August 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    I agree completely with treating people with good eating, supplements, lifestyle etc. That said Obama Care is nothing but a socialist mess! As usual, the devil is in the details.

  50. Nanette Lamoure August 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    I have long been an advocate of exercise and I thought I ate pretty well. As my interest in health and maintaining my weight grew I read more and more about “read your labels” and WOW….. The change in eating habits in the US and what is on our store shelves and in our the food’s ingredients is shocking.

    I bought Dr. Hyman’s “Blood Sugar Solution” several months ago and finally sat down to read and understand more about Dr. Hyman and what he has to say. I wasn’t fat but knew I had weight to lose probably ten (10) pounds. Additionally, I knew enough about nutrition to realize just how “in the dark” I have been living. I do not take any medication but I do take OTC vitamins.

    I have changed my eating habits, continued the same exercise program – the gym 3 to 4 times a week for aerobic exercise, weights, and stretching, and tennis 3 times a week. Since I REALLY started paying attention in earnest I have lost six (6) very stubborn pounds simply by cleaning up what I was eating. I am not finished… I still have 3 pounds to go. But I am patient and will do it. I feel good and have a high energy level. I don’t take any meds but I do take OTC vitamins.

    I have taken note of Dr. Hyman’s list of blood tests that he feels are critical in measuring one’s diabesity levels. I wrote them out, sent them to my doctor and requested those tests for me and I can’t wait to go into the lab to have my blood drawn. I KNOW the results will tell me where I am and what I need to do to continue on a healthier path. I am also anxious to talk with and have my annual exam with my doctor. She is a proactive doctor and has told me (and others) to, ” read your labels. If there are more than 5 ingredients in it, put it back on the shelf. Or,if you are going through your cupboards, throw those items with more than 5 ingredients out”. Just what Dr. Hyman says.!!

    Thank you Dr. Hyman for your dedication and wonderful work !!! You are so right on in every aspect of this subject !!
    Maybe if each one of us continues to learn, acts on our knowledge, and shares information to help others we WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

    Nanette Lamoure

  51. Geoff August 27, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Perception is everything. We need to call a spade a spade. What we have now is a disease treatment system, not a health care system. The system gets paid to treat the symptoms of a man made concept (Disease). The more disease there is the more they get paid for treating it. This is why this approach is not working. If we want a health care system that works we need to get paid for creating just that; Health. This cannot happen until we disconnect the financial incentives for keeping people sick just so we can keep making a profit by treating their symptoms.

  52. janet ryan August 27, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    I agree with everyone, but feel extremely frustrated with the hold big pharm (money) has on our health. If we are going to get anything changed it will have to be by the people. All these awesome integrative docs should join forces and enlist all of us through social media to speak up and not give up. It is our lives, our children’s lives and we watch our friends and families suffer when they won’t go against the ‘system’ and try natural ways to stay healthy. Instant gratification is part of the problem too as well as a lack of serious education, starting with the doctor’s first. Help us start a movement even though there is plenty of natural practitioners, nutritionists available, most of the people who need them, can’t afford them. IF there was a national certification for integrative physicians, to weed out the imposters, maybe we could get nutritional services and subsidized fruits and veges to those who need to change their ways. I am on vacation at a ‘ nice’ restort and you rarely see heavy people at these places. They are educated, have the money to buy good food and are aware of things like inflammation, eating greens, etc. WE NEED CHANGE FOR EVERYONE< not just those who can afford it.

  53. Deepa Malavalli August 27, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I do feel that everyone should have access to healthcare. It is just not right that many people do not have healthcare insurance and it is not true that it just “their own fault”. The socio-political and economical system does not make it possible for certain groups to be insured. The system lacks fairness.

    However, I am convinced that health care reform should include health care education. “How to be healthy” or “how to avoid becoming ill “should be taught in schools. Children should be made aware of what we should do to stay healthy and what we should avoid. School curriculum should help students learn to appreciate food that nature offers and about its benefits. If it is part of the curriculum then students can gain knowledge and develop good eating habits which lead to positive effects in health care. Of course such instruction has to be suitable for a child’s comprehension. It has to be introduced in a simple way.

    Of course parents should also learn. It is obviously not easy to motivate people to eat more healthy food when they are used to eating fast-food or other unhealthy foods. Perhaps if people are rewarded by having to pay less for health insurance if they take care of their health and can prove that by going to the gym, eating more healthy, it could motivate more people to take their own health more seriously.

    I am convinced that health care reform and actually lifestyle reform is really possible. But it is challenging and people have to truly want improvement. It cannot just be solved by a government because everyone has to take an active part in it. Therefore, I feel that education is the key.

  54. Rose Shields August 27, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    Of course what you say makes sense because it states obvious truths. However, what you are fighting is not just an out-of-whack health care system. The whole of society is out-of-whack. The monetary system, the family value system, and since the Simpsons hit the air a whole swathe of dysfunctional family sitcoms have become popular. These shows model society.

    The consequences for taking this pathway have been layed out in detail by you in all your newsletters and whilst you cannot save the world, the information you provide to individuals has and will continue to change lives. For this you should be commended.

    Many thanks,
    Rosemary

  55. Bob Weeks September 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    I asked my family members to read one of your books as a birthday present to me.

  56. Profile photo of Ahb Cairns
    Ahb Cairns September 4, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Such a convincing article. I need to share this with quite a few family members,

  57. Cindy A. Krueger September 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Dr. Hyman, I suggest we stop referring to Obamacare as “healthcare”. It is nothing of the sort. Our vocabulary dictates our actions and without proper wording, we will not be able to conquer some of the most pressing issues surrounding illness, disease and health in this country.

    Consumers need medical services when they are sick, not healthcare. The current system is designed around emergency care and acute care however, 90% of illness and disease in our modern world is due to lifestyle choices.

    Supporting a new model of “health” and offering “medical services” to those in need is a good start. In fact, your writings address all that is needed to heal most of what ails us today.

    Perhaps as you move forward with your continued writings, you will begin to differentiate between these two worlds. I appreciate your brillance and ability to keep us informed.

    Please keep up your great works.

  58. Bernie Smith October 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    An excellent article. I hope the next US president gets to read it, as well as the politicians in my own country (UK)…

Leave a Reply


5 − = two