Monday, February 14, 2011

A Paradigm that isn't Worth Twenty Cents

Health care costs in the United States exceed $2 trillion per year, which represents more than 15% of our GDP. Most industrialized nations only spend about 10% of their GDP on health care. The US ranks 15th out of 19 nations with regard to preventable deaths. It is estimated that 115 per 100,000 people die who would have survived if timely and appropriate medical care was administered. France scored highest in this category, with only 75 deaths per 100,000. The US ranks last in infant mortality, with 7 deaths per 1,000 births. The top three countries have 2.7 deaths per 1,000 births—less than half our number. We are at the bottom of the list in life expectancy. American children miss more school for illness than the children from the other industrialized nations. Fewer than half of American adults receive the recommended screening tests appropriate for their age and sex. Preventable hospital admissions for chronically ill patients (e.g.; those with asthma or diabetes) were twice as high compared to the nations at the top of the list. The rate of readmission of Medicare patients ranges from 14-22%.
We spend more on health care and we get much less than other industrialized nations. More utilization of natural health care would reduce this bill. For example, there are a number of studies that demonstrate that asthmatics will have fewer attacks and fewer hospitalizations if they eat a diet that is high in fresh produce and essential fatty acids. Studies have also shown that supplementation with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium have all benefited patients with asthma. Such recommendations are not given in medical offices. The reasons given ignoring natural health care include, the studies are too small and inconclusive, a cure has not been proven, and "vitamins don't cure disease".
Treatments for diseases are usually singular: we give Ritalin to children with ADD and ADHD--not essential fatty acids, exercise, or a diet that is free of sugar and additives. We don't even augment the drug therapy with natural approaches that are researched and show promise. Large follow-up studies are usually not performed to "prove" the efficacy of the natural treatments. Even though natural health care treatments are low-risk and high-gain; doctors tend to want them to be proven by large studies.
The drug companies buy ads in the medical research journals, they also endow medical schools with money and they sponsor post-graduate education for doctors. They don't necessarily have to suppress any research (although that has been done in the past). What they have been able to do is create this single treatment paradigm--it is an approach favors drug therapies. Doctors don't give vitamin C and fish oil to asthmatics--even if it would improve the health of these patients. It is not a "cure", but it does improve symptoms and reduce hospitalizations. They have been taught not to do this--their entire education, from medical school to the grave, is influenced by the drug companies. CoQ10 can help prevent heart attacks, there are supplements that can speed recovery from surgery and shorten hospital stays, and there are many other natural health approaches that can cut our medical costs. Unfortunately they are largely ignored by the medical community. Supplementation does not fit their paradigm.

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