10 years ago I found myself, quite unexpectedly, in the business of healthcare. And when one is in healthcare in the US, one naturally has a relationship to medicine. Yes, they are different creatures, the world of medicine and healthcare. Think of medicine as doctors plying their trade, or more traditionally as the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. In contrast, healthcare is a broader concept and refers to diagnosis and treatment, plus prevention. The concept of and practice of healthcare includes the extended, NON MEDICAL practitioners – massage therapists, yoga teachers, health educators. And now we’re adding health coaches, and even culinary health coaches!
My work at Yoga Yoga has thrust me into a process of grappling with the relationship between yoga teachers as healers in contrast to physicians – and a growing recognition that often the yoga teacher was a more appropriate ally in health than a trained physician….surprising to me at the time, and less so over the years as I’ve begun to appreciate the challenge to be a physician in 2015.
Now, the NY Times brings us yet another a story about a study done in 2012 by the Cochrane Collaboration, a well respected medical research group, who recommends that we forego our annual physicals. Seems sacrilegious, but the research shows that these physicals don’t prevent death or reduce pain and suffering. And they cost in excess of $325 billion annually!
Let’s add this to a few earlier pronouncements that fly in the face of ‘what we know’. How many of us recognize that going into a hospital exposes us to the third leading cause of death in the US? Or that getting doctors and nurses to wash their hands in hospitals (I used to think they did!) could reduce hospital caused infections by 40%!
Another ‘what we know’ in the realm of medicine that has become a professional focus for me is that food is just not all that important in the world of medicine. You likely know that physicians learn almost no nutrition in medical school. In this NIH published article, the conclusion is that “The amount of nutrition education in medical schools remains inadequate.” Most doctors don’t even get the recommended 25 hours of instruction! The corollary is that physicians simply don’t prioritize food in their work.
However, in my research around food and health, and in my conversations with hundreds of physicians, I can confidently assert that over the course of the possibly 500 million primary care visits in the US annually, if we could ‘hard wire’ food into treatment plans we might well impact the health and longevity of the US population in a way that is beyond drugs or exercise.
It seems that it might be time to question ‘what we know’ about supporting our health and well being as a society. Lets begin to insist that we bring food into the healthcare equation. What is the next most important new cuisine in the world is a healing cuisine, and what if your doctor made that cuisine part of your treatment plan???