Commentary on Health
By Dr. Mehmet OzSpecial to ABCNEWS.com
I am a heart
surgeon. Every day I take someone's heart and stop it completely.
Sometimes I fix it. Sometimes I replace it with another heart. Sometimes
I replace it with a machine.
of modern medicine allows physicians to grasp people on the precipice
of death and pull them to health. At least that's what I thought
in the isolated, temperature controlled world of the OR.
But my patients
demanded more. They showed me that alleviating symptoms is not necessarily
curing disease and that surviving is not synonymous with being well.
I learned to
treat the whole patient, rather than just her arteries or his valves
and this stimulated the creation of a complementary medicine center.
today are offered customized alternative treatments including yoga,
massage, and guided imagery in conjunction with their high technology
medical devices.This holistic approach created empowered patients
who were well equipped to face the challenges of illness and life.
influence the world one patient at a time and the tools we use to
create health awareness do not touch the millions who have abdicated
responsibility for their own well being and the overarching needs
of society. There had to be a way for communities to become actively
involved in creating a healthy environment and encouraging citizen
participation in wellness.
for a mythical operating theatre for society, I was invited to visit
a group of influential decision makers at the World Economic Forum.
Over the past several years as demonstrators petitioned outside
the guarded entrances to the meeting halls, many participants had
the epiphany that countries cannot sustain creation of wealth without
also building health.
'The Possible Human' Manual
Into this fertile
soil was planted the seeds for a health manual for society,
The Possible Human , slated for release at this year's annual
meeting. First, we need an accurate diagnosis of our current condition.
living in the United States can be dangerous to your health. Obesity
is present in over a third of Americans and has become a more important
predictor of chronic ailments and worker quality of life than any
other public scourge. The illnesses caused by obesity also lead
to the most number of lost workdays of any single ailment and increase
pharmaceutical and hospital expenditure.
many illnesses, throwing money (like medicines) at the problem is
not the solution. When measured across the country, expenditures
on health and achievement of wellness are not correlated.
states are ranked for healthy days/year, medical care expenditures
and overall health score. The Possible American report argues
that health is an economic resource that should be nurtured.
Health Equals Productivity
not only make fewer demands upon the health and social care systems,
they are also more productive. In fact, 75 percent of illness costs
to business is lost productivity rather than direct expenditures
for health care costs.
Third, as in
medicine, complex challenges require innovative solutions. We need
a new understanding of "wellness" based on wider influences on health,
including how long the commute to work takes and how often a sick
child prevents the parents from functioning fully at work.
has to be customized to individual communities since we all have
different pain points. The challenge will be to ensure that the
opportunity to reach one's potential becomes the birthright of all.
has already been engaged by some. After Philadelphia was voted the
"fattest city" in America, the city government announced initiatives
to help its citizens lose 76 tons in 2001.
included appointing a city health "czar" and launching school education
programs. Philadelphia also partnered with the private sector to
add bike lanes and racks, sponsor monthly walk-to-work days, and
increase access to gyms and sporting-good stores.
spurred additional private public partnerships and enabled the city
to rise dramatically from the bottom on the obesity charts.
need to create a holistic plan to prevent the patient from relapsing.
This should include awareness that individuals (and society in aggregate)
have responsibilities for their wellness. After all, are we proud
that our five top sources of calories are whole milk, cola, margarine,
white bread, and rolls?
is delivered locally and must be governed at this level, so the
final product can be customized to the individual and his community.
should be our mantra. Many prominent world leaders meeting at the
World Economic Forum today in New York share this belief.
As a healer
who has become part of this group, I am acutely aware that influential
organizations such as this need to generate concrete ways for local
governments, businesses, schools, and families to invest in wellness.
Americans cannot abdicate our responsibility to our own wellness.
Oz is a heart surgeon at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Medical
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