Are our health care systems really helping us?

In a recent exercise, on our quest to find out what support our health systems offer in improving our overall health and wellbeing, we contacted some of the best internationally recognized hospitals to seek some help. 

We approached these facilities with one question: ‘I would like to start taking care of my health. Is there anybody we can speak to that can help with reviewing my current lifestyle choices and provide me with some support in making improvements?”

The hospitals we approached are the one-stop-shop for all things health. Glitzy, glamorous and staffed by some the best medical professionals in the world.

Here is what happened: Four out of 5 hospitals immediately responded with a referral to their bariatric surgical department.

This experiment got us thinking about how well-equipped and best-placed the health systems we are all dependent on to deal with our health are to help us be healthy.

Are they well-equipped to focus on prevention and wellbeing, before we require medical intervention that does in fact require surgery or medication?

While the marvels of modern medicine have revolutionized how we treat diseases, are drugs and surgery the answer to all our health problems?

In recent times, globally, there has been an increase in the amount of noise around the importance  and the impact of diet, exercise and lifestyle choices on our overall health. Using these to reduce risk of chronic disease and therefore medical intervention in the form of drugs and surgery for overall wellbeing is no secret.

Pioneers in the field of functional medicine, such as Dr Mark Hyman, have for many years advocated and stressed the above. But despite these advancements towards an holistic approach to our health, have our health systems adopted this change? Or have they and do they still condition us to a certain pattern: Get sick, don’t feel great, reach out to a doctor, visit the hospital and get some medicine. Get better, go back to our lives. Get sick again…..repeat?

The underlying narrative of drugs and surgery as the immediate answer to our problems needs some work. For this to happen, our primary and secondary healthcare services must be equipped to handle all health and wellbeing related concerns, especially focusing on prevention advice and initiatives as well as after-care, post-discharge, to reduce further risk of disease and readmission.

While in many cases, medicine, drugs and doctors are appropriate, the dependence on these systems has led to us neglecting the things we could do before we get to the point of actually needing this system. This system, in theory, should be best-placed to do this, however in reality, it seems it is not. 

The current factors causing our global health crisis include:

• an aging population

• increasing lifespans and a reduction in health span

• increase in global health expenditure  

• healthcare work force shortages

• an increase in non-communicable disease (NCDs)

All of these are in fact preventable with diet and exercise.

The World Health Organization reported that 70 percent of global death arose from NCDs that are preventable and reversible.

Worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975 and for the first time in history the number of people 65 and over outnumber the number of children five and below. Coupled with access to what we want when we want it, whether food or services, while living among a global society that sits more, moves less and prioritizes short-term gratification, we are now and for the foreseeable future dependent on a questionably fit-for-purpose system. 

Furthermore, anti-aging creams, injections and facials are prioritized when it comes to our visible health and aesthetics. In recent times some of the best hospitals in the world have prioritized expansion into aesthetics over wellbeing, claiming that weight loss programs and services are enough for our overall health.

But is weight loss the goal for every individual that wants to improve or work on their health? Those admitted with conditions due to poor lifestyle and diet choices get a one-size fits all sheet of paper upon discharge, containing lifestyle recommendations to reduce their risk of readmission and further disease.

Increasingly, doctors, pharmacists and nutritionists are wondering whether this practice actually sits well in our professional moral compass.

Have a think and better still find out whether your go-to medical facility offers you the support you really need to reduce your risk of chronic diseases through lifestyle interventions.

Can you get access to a service that helps you understand what specifically you can do to reduce your risk of chronic disease? Does your medical facility help you with a structured plan to prevent readmission for a disease-related illness in the same personalized approach that staff prescribed a the specific drug to you, at the specific dose when you needed it?

Were you given a sheet of paper with some food groups to eat that aren’t explained and specific to you and some stretches for you to do in the name of exercise, and that was it? 

Needless to say, that if you ask for support with your health and wellbeing, be very wary if you are recommended surgery without any questions asked. While there is a place for bariatric surgery in modern medicine, without being asked simple questions before referral, run the other way; toward lasting lifestyle changes, the kind that don’t come with complications and side effects. 

You know better. And sadly, so should they. is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



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