Health Impact News Editor Comments
When I read an article in The Atlantic recently with the title: Living Sick and Dying Young in Rich America – Chronic illness is the new first-world problem – it caught my attention. This is the kind of topic we cover on a regular basis here at Health Impact News, but seldom do you read about it in the mainstream media.
There are 3 things that are rather astonishing about the sad state of health in America today:
1. We’re sicker than previous generations, and most of us know it.
2. We don’t seem to care about it too much. It is not headline news.
3. There doesn’t seem to be much motivation to change this fact: it seems to have been accepted as the new “norm.”
Last year, we reported about a study funded by the government and your tax dollars which clearly showed that the United States ranks #1 on healthcare spending, but last in life expectancy among wealthy nations (See: U.S. Ranks First in Healthcare Spending – Last in Life Expectancy). The mainstream media barely even covered this story, and even here at Health Impact News it was probably not even in the top 100 stories read from everything we published last year.
The sad fact seems to be that most Americans have adopted an attitude that the current health situation in the U.S. cannot be changed.
For those few of you who have not drunk the Kool Aid, and still believe you do have control over your health and have choices you can make to live a healthier life, then this article by John Thomas identifying the problems and solutions is for you.
Please understand that if enough Americans understand that the healthcare system (which is not really a “healthcare” system at all but a MEDICAL system) is the primary problem and take measures to avoid it, that it would absolutely destroy our economy, since so much of it is dependent on sick people. But maybe our economy is heading for destruction anyway, so don’t let that threat stop you from making healthy choices today.
Is it Normal to be Sick?
by John P. Thomas
Is it normal to be sick? Many people think so, but it hasn’t always been this way. What was life like before we became dependent on modern pharmaceutical drugs, major medical centers, and health insurance? If we turn back the clock a hundred and fifty years, we will hardly find anything that looks like the modern medical system. Did previous generations live in the dark ages of medicine, or is the modern age of chronic degenerative illness and modern pharmaceutical drugs actually a dark age of medicine?
I remember overhearing a conversation while waiting for a table in a restaurant some 25 years ago. A grandmother was talking to her 10 year old grandson. She must not have seen him for a while, so she began by asking one of those general types of questions to get the conversation started. “How are you feeling?” Without hesitation, her grandson started discussing his various health problems, which included allergies, asthma, fatigue, etc. In a grandmotherly voice filled with sympathy and concern, she gave a reply that sticks in my mind to this day. She said, “I understand — we all have something wrong with us.” She went on to tell him that we are all sick and we have to learn to live with it. I don’t know if her words were entirely true then, but they are most certainly true today! We are sick and getting sicker, and we are all being taught to live with it.
Here we are 25 years later and despite all the medical and pharmaceutical advances that have taken place in the United States, we are sicker than ever. How many people do you know who are not taking one or more prescription medications? How many people do you know who do not have a medical diagnosis for some chronic illness? How many people do you know who are not being treated for some condition that requires periodic trips to the doctor to monitor disease progression and to adjust medications? How many people do you know who struggle with paying for medications? If I count the people I know, who do not fall into the groups I just mentioned, I can count them on the fingers of one hand. How about the people you know?
The purpose of this article is to examine how we respond to our illnesses and to questions whether our pharmaceutical drugs and system of healthcare is making us sicker than we need to be.
Does the Healthcare System in the United States Lead the World?
We certainly lead the world in the amount of dollars spent on healthcare. We spend 2.5 times more per person per year than is spent in any other country on Earth for healthcare.1
Does the Money we Spend for Healthcare Make Us the Healthiest people in the World?
The New York Times recently revealed how our healthcare system compares to other countries.
“In the Social Progress Index, the United States excels in access to advanced education but ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety.”2
The United States is sitting in the 70th position down from the top of the list for the category of health when compared to other countries. Let’s look at the details of how we compare to other wealthy countries.
The Panel on Understanding Cross-National Health Differences Among High-Income Countries, compared the health of people living in the United States with people living in other high income countries, which included Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. They reported:
Over this time period, we uncovered a strikingly consistent and pervasive pattern of higher mortality and inferior health in the United States, beginning at birth: … For many years, Americans have had a shorter life expectancy than people in almost all of the peer countries. For example, as of 2007, U.S. males lived 3.7 fewer years than Swiss males and U.S. females lived 5.2 fewer years than Japanese females.3
We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world, which should make us the healthiest people on Earth, but this is not the case.
Why are We so Sick?
The short answer is we are sick because of prescription drugs, vaccines, a high carbohydrate diet, refined and processed food, genetically engineered food, pesticides contamination of food, environmental toxins, and electromagnetic smog, just to name a few. We are sick, because we have been trained to believe that the condition of our health is outside of our control, and we do not have responsibility for our poor health. We are sick, because we have been taught to believe that there is a pill for every illness and for every conditions of life that we don’t want to experience. We are sick, because disinformation campaigns attack the use of medical diets that can reverse the progression of many chronic degenerative illnesses. We are sick because the use of less toxic and more effective alternatives treatments for chronic illness are suppressed by the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry.
“Despite the fact that America shells out more money on healthcare than any other country in the world, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and a hefty 75 percent of those dollars are going toward aiding people with chronic conditions—almost half of American adults had at least one chronic condition in 2005.”4
The existence of chronic illness leads to massive expenditures for pharmaceutical medications. The pharmaceutical companies want us to believe that taking large numbers of their medications is normal and should be an expected part of life. Is it normal to start taking a high cost dangerous medication such as statin drugs when a person is 20 years old with the plan that it will be taken for the rest of a person’s life when the medication has been scientifically proven to be ineffective for preventing disease?5 Is it reasonable for 23% of women in their 40s and 50s to be taking antidepressants when these drugs cause serious long-term damage to physical health, which will then require the prescription of other numerous medications?6 Some people think it is reasonable and desirable, but not everyone!
Who Wants the Continual use of Prescription Medication to be a Normal Part of Life?
“The number of prescriptions taken by Americans increased 72 percent from 1997 to 2007. In fact nearly 4 billion prescriptions were filled in 2007, with an average of nearly 13 prescriptions filled by each and every American, according to the New York Times.”7
When my father-in-law was 90 years old, he was simultaneously taking 27 different prescription medications. One day when we were filling his weekly pill minder with his drugs, it began to dawn on him that these medicines were killing him. Even though he suspected that the drugs were doing harm, he didn’t have the strength to ask his doctor to cut back on the number. After all, his doctor said he should take them. And he had put his faith in his doctor.
“From 1997 to 2007, the number of prescriptions filled had increased 72 percent, to 3.8 billion last year. In the same period, the average number of prescriptions filled by each person in this country increased from 8.9 a year in 1997 to 12.6 in 2007.”8
Obviously, the pharmaceutical industry wants to keep increasing sales of its products. That is the nature of business. They market their products to physicians to keep the prescriptions flowing to the pharmacies, and they encourage us through advertising to keep on asking for more and more drugs.
Are you “Addicted” to Your Doctor and to the Pills He or She Recommends?
Many Americans accept their poor health as normal. They have become accustomed to feeling ill, and behave as if being sick is normal. Whenever they feel a symptom, they run to the doctor to see what is wrong. Even if the doctor doesn’t offer a prescription, they will ask for a pill anyway. They will often remind their doctor that they saw an ad on TV that described just what they have. They are unhappy unless they get a prescription, which helps them feel that the doctor’s visit was worthwhile even if they don’t feel any better after taking the pills.
Did you ever think about what life would be like if there were no pharmaceutical drugs, no major medical centers, no federal funds for research, and no health insurance programs?
A hundred and fifty years ago, most every small town in America had a local doctor. He was the medical care system. He delivered babies, fixed broken bones, amputated limbs, prescribed medicines, and sometimes even manufactured medicines. He was the primary care physician, the emergency room, hospital, hospice staff, and sometimes the pharmacy all rolled into one. He did not need to treat cancer with radiation, chemo- therapy, or surgery, because people rarely got cancer. He didn’t need to figure out how to help autistic children, because autism was nonexistent. He did not need to figure out what kind of drug to give children with learning disabilities, hyperactivity disorders, or attention deficits, because children rarely had such problems. Yes, people got old, got sick, and died, but they did it without the modern medical system. Does complete dependency upon the modern medical system and the products of the pharmaceutical industry truly make us healthier, or have we just been conditioned to believe that we can’t live without that system as it currently exists?
Is the Pharmaceutical Industry Making Us Healthier, or are its drugs Actually Making Us Sicker?
Dr. Mercola answers this question this way:
There were nearly 4.6 million drug-related visits to emergency rooms in the United States in 2009, with more than half due to adverse reactions to prescription medications – most of which were being taken exactly as prescribed. The fact of the matter is, as echoed by a study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), it is a mistake to assume there’s no risk in prescribed medicines! As Sayer Ji writes on GreenMedInfo.com:
“The “medicines” themselves are often devoid of intrinsic value, being nothing more than rebranded and re-purposed chemicals, intended (though all too often failing) to be administered in sub-lethal concentrations. Indeed, many of these chemicals are too toxic to be legally released into the environment, and should never be administered intentionally to a human who is already sick. You need look no farther than a typical drug package insert to find proof that the side effects of most drugs far outnumber their purported beneficial effects.”
Medical care is actually one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., with medical errors, adverse drug reactions, and hospital-acquired infections killing an unacceptable number of Americans each and every day! Drug-related ER visits jumped by more than half between 2004 and 2008, stirring health officials to look for ways to stop what has become a near-epidemic that often ends in death.9
Sure, we may have one of the best systems for treating acute surgical emergencies, but the American medical system is an unmitigated failure at treating chronic illness.
Conventional medicine, which is focused on diagnostic tests, drugs, and surgical interventions for most ills, clearly kills more people than it saves.10
There are some pharmaceutical drugs that can be helpful with acute conditions, but when it comes to long-term chronic illness, we should beware of the mass marketed pharmaceutical drugs that are marketed on TV, in magazines, and in physicians’ offices.
Can You Give Me a Pill for That?
So, what are we to do about all the problems that we see with pharmaceutical drugs? Let’s focus on the first and foremost level of importance. It has to do with the personal choices we make regarding our use of pharmaceuticals. Do we remain passive, or do we take responsibility?
- Do we put physicians up on pedestals and follow their every command, or do we ask questions about recommended drug therapies?
- Do we seek to find the cause of our health problems and address it, or do we only look for a pill that will cover up the symptoms?
- Do we do our own research to investigate other options for treating our health problems and the problems of our children?
- Do we look for less toxic non-pharmaceutical alternatives to the drugs that physicians commonly prescribe?
- Do we seek to find physicians who will work with us as we jointly seek to find less invasive, less toxic, and less costly alternatives to pharmaceuticals and high-tech medical treatments and procedures?
We can learn to make different choices regarding how we respond to our illnesses. But, we must first take responsibility for our health, and refuse to believe the lie that “we are all sick and we just need to learn to live with it.”
But I would Rather have a Pill!
If you would rather have a pill for what ails you, and obey every word that proceeds from the mouth of your doctor, then you will end up becoming a captive participant in healthcare American style. The choice is yours. Some people will choose to take pharmaceutical drugs and will refuse to do anything that would involve making changes to their diet or lifestyle. Some will prefer to accept the risks of pharmaceutical drugs and the modern medical system while clinging to the high carbohydrate standard American diet with its factory farms and genetically modified foods. Some would rather get in line and use a healthcare system that too often destroys health rather than helping people build it up. For those who follow this path, the outcome is predictable – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and years of suffering in a nursing home prior to death.
I am encouraging each of us to examine our relationship to the modern healthcare system and to decide whether we want to give ourselves over to that system, or not. Do you choose to use the remaining freedom that you still have for making decisions about your own healthcare or do you wish to passively turn over your decision making to others? What decisions have you been making, and what decisions will you make in the future?
1. “U.S. Ranks First in Healthcare Spending – Last in Life Expectancy,” Health Impact News, 2013. http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/u-s-ranks-first-in-healthcare-spending-last-in-life-expectancy/
2. “We’re Not No. 1! We’re Not No. 1!,” NYTimes.com, 4/3/2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/opinion/were-not-no-1-were-not-no-1.html?emc=edit_th_20140403&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67570349
3. “U.S. Ranks First in Healthcare Spending – Last in Life Expectancy,” Health Impact News, 2013. http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/u-s-ranks-first-in-healthcare-spending-last-in-life-expectancy/
4. “Living Sick and Dying Young in Rich America,” Leah Sottile, The Atlantic, 12/19/2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/living-sick-and-dying-young-in-rich-america/282495/
5. “Statins – Are YOU Taking These Dangerous Cholesterol Drugs?” mercola.com. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/20/the-truth-about-statin-drugs-revealed.aspx
6. “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans,” . Peter Wehrwein, Contributor, Harvard Health, Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publications, Posted 10/20/2011. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/astounding-increase-in-antidepressant-use-by-americans-201110203624
7. “In Sour Economy, Some Scale Back on Medications,” STEPHANIE SAUL, NYTimes.com, 10/21/2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/business/22drug.html?_r=2&fta=y&#articleBodyLink
9. “Drug-Driven Medical Care Sacrificing People’s Lives?” mercola.com, 5/23/2012. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/23/can-medicine-cause-death.aspx
10. “Preventable Medical Errors: Third Cause of Death in the US,” mercola.com, 10/9/2013. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/10/09/preventable-medical-errors.aspx
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