02 September 2012

An ulterior motive of doctors...

I recently read a journal article in Journal of Pain and Symptom Management titled, Few Doctors Discuss Exercise with Cancer Patients: Study and I quickly found myself thinking about WHY so few doctors mention exercise to patients as part of the treatment process? After all, doctors are in the business of diagnosing and treatment. Why is it that doctors don't innately prescribe a healthy diet and daily exercise as part of cancer patients recovery/care program when the research is replete with examples of nothing but success? I'll provide a look at a couple of reasons that may peak some interest into why doctors have such a hard time.

Research concludes that daily, consistent exercise can help decreasing that rate of cancer re-occurring by 50%. That's half the chance of cancer popping up in ones life. That miraculous! An interesting point this article posted was that most cancer-fighting patients that exercised pre-cancer diagnosis were more inclined to exercise post-cancer diagnosis without the consultation of their doctors. Basically, if exercise was important before cancer, it remains equally, if not more important after. Many people diagnosed with cancer are unaware of the benefits associated with exercise (and I'll add, a healthy diet).

In comparison to the approaches of the "fad diets" or the "silver-bullet pill(s)," the benefits of exercise aren't as immediate. Despite the fact that exercise leads to a prolonged life, lower morbidity and mortality rates and these findings, many people diagnosed with cancer remain unaware that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to a weakened immune system, a deterioration of muscle strength, and hazardous health problems. Cancer can be defined as a chronic condition, meaning that it takes awhile before symptoms arise and manifest themselves. Having said that, the reason I questioned why doctors rarely suggest exercise as part of a recovery/care plan is because many people diagnosed with cancer in this study would exercise if their oncologists discussed it with them throughout the treatment process. 

Hear me out, if exercise can decrease the rate at which cancer re-occurs  by 50% and doctors don't automatically suggest it as part of recovery/care plan then doesn't that assume that doctors may have an ulterior motive as to why they don't require it as part of the treatment process?!

That ulterior motive (not in all cases) is what I want to make you aware of. Prevention doesn't pay the bills as much as treatment does. If people are sick then they have a reason to go see a doctor, but if they are as healthy as an ox (as the saying goes) then there is no need to see a doctor. Now, that seems very simple, and it is; preciously my point! It is simple! Doctors that don't have any patients to treat would either have to leave the industry, or change their focus. Since neither of those will happen anytime soon, I'm here to suggest an ulterior motive; maybe doctors continue to be persuaded by Big Pharma (pharmaceuticals) industries to keep patients sick so that they can continue to operate their facilities? Just a suggestion that makes sense. Millions of dollars are spent on lobbying efforts each year focused directly at healthcare specialists. Maybe that's not the case, but why would they waste that much money if it wasn't working in the first place? The research is replete with evidence to suggest that what I've just said is in fact true. Doctors get a higher salary when they perform the bigger, more complex operations versus telling a patient to eat healthier or exercise more. That makes sense, but the fact that doctors advertise for Big Pharma so that they can keep their lights on (it's more complex than that) needs to be addressed. Something needs to be done!

There are more unhealthy, cancerous people in the world than ever before, and it is only going to keep rising unless there are changes made. One of those changes would be to have doctors be more readily excited to suggest exercise to cancerous patients. If that and only that were to take place, 30-60% of both men and women would have a 50% higher chance of spending extra time with their families experiencing life to its fullest and making memories to last a lifetime. Now that is a hope to believe in, an idea to work towards and an opportunity to be worthy of ceasing!

31 January 2012

USDA, Ammonia & McDonalds



Your health insurance:
USDA, a government organization whose mission is to protect humans from the vast dangers that can affect food. Clearly, this entity does not value our health as much as they claim to if they allow Ammonia (a household cleaning product that is very toxic to humans) to be used in hamburger meats all across America.

Ammonia is a colorless gas that has a foul odor, and is a commercial cleaning agent. It irritates the eyes, mucus membranes (respiratory and digestive tracts) and to a lesser extent the skin. And if mixed with bleach a very toxic and very poisonous gas will result.

This same USDA that sets regulations and "protects" food is allowing a substance--one of many--that have harmful effects on humans to be apart of the fast food hamburgers that so many of us eat regularly.

This pink gloopy substance that is part of the "ground beef" (if you can call it that) process has been taken out after years of use. The USDA mentioned that Ammonia was part of the process of production and not an ingredient and therefore left it off the label.

How are we as consumers to trust such an entity that is supposed to be protecting against harmful substances in food when the entire time such substances are as much of an ingredient as the "ground beef" is in your McDonald's hamburgers?! How are we to trust that there are not other harmful substances in the many other foods that we consume? Transparency is needed if consumers are to trust! But apparently we're the fools.

Who is to say that an extra dose of Ammonia won't slip in unannounced and cause irreversible health effects?! It does happen! Food recalls are a prime example of how contaminated food products have leaked into mainstream society, cause some illnesses, raised some concerns about health and, you guessed it, as a final result the government steps in to halt the widespread distribution of that specific food. Government doing what it does best; stepping in to treat the symptoms and not prevent the upstream risk factors.

I am not saying that the government can prevent all of these unfortunate leaks into the public, but it can at least focus on prevention rather than solely treat symptoms. It is possible. With a little rallied effort by the leadership of the USDA to step in and make a stand that the use of certain harmful substances will not be used to eliminate potential life-threatening parasites, viruses, bacteria, etc in our foods. They should encourage food scientists to find healthier, more life-sustaining alternatives in the treatment process.

It is possible! It can be done, but not without a concerted effort from the leadership of such an organization as well as you and I. We as a society need to stand for values, standards and ideals that don't fluctuate but that encourage, promote, protect and prevent the onslaught of unethical decisions based solely on monetary motivations.  McDonald's stopping the use of this pink-gloopy substance is a step in the right direction, and I applaud them, but many more steps need to be taken in that same direction if we are to reach our goal.

29 January 2012

Health & Politics

up·stream (ŭp’strēm’)
adj. Towards the source of a stream or river; against the normal direction of water flow.

Imagine walking along a riverbank with a friend. Suddenly, you notice someone drowning in the river, flailing his arms and screaming for help as he is swept downstream.

You jump into the river to pull him to safety, but as soon as you reach the shore, you see someone else in the river, screaming for help. This happens again and again.

Exhausted, you shout for your friend to help you. Instead of jumping into the river, your friend begins running up the river bank. When you ask her what she is doing, she replies, “I’m going upstream to find out why these people are falling in, and to keep them safe on the riverbank!”

"If we don't change the direction we are headed,
we will end up where we are going."
                                                        -Chinese Proverb

In Public Health we are constantly fighting the current misunderstandings of the time. There seems to be many vast health disparities that have resulted from such misunderstandings. This story relays the mission of Public Health and upstream politics. To understand and get to the root cause of any health disparity--whether it be socioeconomic, environmental, or personal--our mission is to move as far upstream as possible.

Upstream causes deal with interventions that are beyond the individual's control. These interventions focus on implementing new laws, policy and programs to help assist individual's health behaviors and choices. We have all seen how effective focusing on upstream factors can be, just take a look at the Tobacco industry and how effective they are at advertising to adolescents. The day of the Marlboro man and Joe Camel are long gone. There are other ways the Tobacco industries target audiences that require further implementations, but we'll address that another day.

If we are to effectively reduce these health disparities that plague our societies day in and day out, then theory-based health prevention programs require our attention.