I am confused by our currents attempts to achieve health. If you follow me you know, I am confused because we seem to focus on disease rather than health. It is as if we go after B (disease – prevent and treat), hoping to get A (health and well-being). But these states are independent, though related. Simply making less or more of one state does not necessarily have a corresponding change in the other state.
I am continually reminded of this current confusing approach, or what seems to be honest attempts at chasing A (disease) to improve B (health), such as in Dan Heath’s new, interesting book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen. Once again the focus is on fixing problems…just earlier, or upstream. Upstream reminded me of a passage in John Robbins 1996 book “Reclaiming Our Health”. In the beginning he shared a story about a fictitious society that lives on a mountain. He explained that people kept falling off the mountain and the society made faster and faster ways to rescue and treat people after they fell off the mountain. Of course the faster they got, the better they thought they were doing. Finally someone suggested they build a fence. Obviously a fence is better than people falling off the mountain, but it does not make us better than we would have been if we didn’t fall off the mountain. It just went further Upstream. We should aim to make things MORE GOOD, NOT JUST LESS BAD (see Create More Good, Not Just Less Bad).
I think some solutions of how we can be More Good are being offered in Bradley and Taylors work outlined in their book, “The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less” and in their NYTimes column, that seems to have an inaccurate title, To Fix Health Care, Help the Poor. Their work documents that America does not actually spend the most on health care if you consider treatment AND social services provided in most other countries. Social services benefit health and well-being of society, thus creating a higher quality of life, and they also lower treatment and disease costs.
Without question, better health will come from improved physical, mental and social well-being. This has been proven over and over again. Higher health means more prevention and less issues, less problems however is the side effect of better health. In addition when something difficult does happen in life, as it most assuredly will, better health provides value because now they will be able to overcome, heal because the difficulty will be less problematic due to their higher health status. Those benefits of overcoming difficult disease problems are the side effect of having a better life. The primary focus on health, needs to be on health and how to improve it. If we do that, not only do we get better health, a higher quality of life, a by-product or secondary benefit is less problems and prevention of other difficulties.
This episode seems inspired by Vivian Lee, MD’s book, The Long Fix: Solving America’s Health Care Crisis With Strategies that Work for Everyone. Without question, the inefficient bureaucracy of our health care system is causing many problems and her solutions will help. It will be less bad. However, just finding a way to make it more economically efficient is not enough. Although I have not read her book yet, the podcast seems to suggest she realized this also. At the end they discuss a doctors office that does better at helping people live a better life, that office then also does better economically, and as a side effect…their patients have more prevention. While more study should be done, evidence seems to overwhelmingly indicate that we should change our objective so better health is the primary focus instead of less disease. Then if we improve the processes that promote health, a better life can be had by most and then… as a by-product many of the problems will take care of themselves.
There is much more to say about how to improve, but we must act to cause health. Overall it seems clear, we are asking the Wrong Questions if better health is our goal. This concept is also discussed in Asking Better Questions Can Generate a Better Tomorrow. We should be asking Aaron Antonovsky’s salutogenic question, “How can we understand movement of people in the direction of the health end of the continuum?” In other words, what helps people improve health such that it means more than just less disease. As we begin to achieve more holistic good, less bad has to follow.
My attempts to create more good first that also results in less bad is to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. As more and more of us engage in these actions, we will move toward a better world for everyone and everything, which will also mean less problems. And when we do have problems, which we will, our increased capacity and better health will enable us to handle those issues more effectively.
I look forward to hearing how you do good from selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions #SelfishSelflessSynergy.
Please share how you do good…
Please share your thoughts and questions below.