We operate in a time when reductionist, pathology-elimination based, double-blind proven medicine is the ruling economic, philosophical, scientific and almost, the ruling religious model.
But the shift, though still subtle, has begun, and we are at a turning point in the phenomenological rhythm, or spiral of perception. Less than 200 years ago, health care was based on systemic, more holistic approaches.
The new scientific and technological innovations-- X-ray, microscope, precision chemistry, anesthesia, surgery, targeted pharmacological agents-- all helped to turn the vision of health care from treating the whole body to treating specific lesions and diagnoses.
Consumers have begun to want more than symptom elimination. The reality is, modern medicine has reached a plateau of sorts. It can help acute disease, but is still at a loss for dealing with chronic problems--- and actually, many of the cures for acute diseases have led to some of the chronic problems.
Certainly the use of drugs is one example. Drugs are ubiquitous, deeply ingrained elements of Modern cultures, as are other medical "treatments." And they do produce incredible cures. But there is a down side. People expect a pill to solve any problem.
Edward Tenner, in his book, Why Things Bite Back; Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences, cites Ivan Illich's Medical Nemesis, "medical bureaucracy creates ill-health by increasing stress, by multiplying disabling dependence, by generating new, painful needs, by lowering the levels of tolerance for discomfort or pain, by reducing the leeway that people are wont to concede to an individual when he suffers, and by abolishing the right to self-care." And that was written in 1976, long before managed care had the temerity to tell doctors that therapy other than pharmaceutical was unacceptable for depression and other disorders. Tenner goes on to ask, "Have the public and private insurance plans of the industrial world eroded responsibility and rewarded sickness?"
Biofeedback, applied psychophysiology, self regulation, meditation, yoga-- call it what you will-- this self control, self responsibility approach to health has many faces, which include nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, work style, thought styles-- is really only given lip service by the prevailing medical model. James Gordon, in his book, Manifesto for a New Medicine, writes, "If anyone had come up with a new drug that doubled the life of women with metastatic breast cancer, every oncologist in America would have had his or her prescription pad ready; when David Spiegel demonstrated that support groups could make this kind of difference, his work hardly made a wave on the surface of orthodox medical practice."
Gordon goes on to comment on standard of proof for drug research, "Nor has this standard of proof been applied equally to all therapeutic interventions. Very few surgical procedures-- which are not, as drugs are, subject to FDA approval-- have ever been through large-scale clinical trials."
He reports that one US congress Office of Technology Assessment study indicated that approximately 85 percent of all therapies and procedures commonly used by physicians and in hospitals had never received any kind of rigorous evaluation.
The problem runs deep. NIH research funding is based on pathology. You can't go to NIH with an approach which could help a wide range of diseases and seek support. First you have to identify a disease. This is sick. And even if you do narrow down to a disease, NIH has miniscule budget earmarked for this kind of approach to health-- less than $3 million, out of a budget of over $30 billion. That's one ten thousandth of the budget. They certainly spend more on accounting and secretarial than they do on self-responsibility aspects of health care.
This reminds me of ancient life in the fertile crescent, or the Mayan culture, when priests were in control of knowledge and the essentials of life. It was a paternalistic time when individual's souls and ability to live were controlled by the high priests, only now we call them doctors.
We live in a society in which one of the largest, if not the largest industries is the multi trillion dollar illness care empire. It is "multicameral" in nature, with government divisions-- FDA , NIH and state licensing boards, Insurers, and corporate divisions-- the huge pharmaceutical houses, hospital chains, hospital suppliers, and of course, the Priests of power-- the doctors, nurses, technologists, bio-researchers, attorneys, and bureaucrats who all have a stake in maintaining the status quo. When Clinton tried to take on this empire several years ago, even with the mobilization of the resources of the presidency of the US, he was soundly trounced by an obviously more powerful foe. We now see how the trillion dollar insurance company industry and its agencies are spending millions fighting universal single payer health care.
So..... how can we, a small, under-funded .group of idealists, visionaries and dreamers ever hope to get the giant to change? I like to think we are the hot-blooded little mammals who survived the cataclysms which caused the extinctions of the dinosaurs-- in this case-- the reductionist medical industrial empire.