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The Trump effect in healthcare

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At 35,000 feet over the Pacific between Sydney and LA, I’d hoped this view of our troubled planet offered greater objectivity – but then I read the latest news about the US elections, more reactions to the High Court’s decision re Brexit, the political strife – and bushfires – in Australia . . . with more to come.

I doubt I’m alone in sensing the greatest level of social disquiet since perhaps WWII. I celebrate people’s distrust of governments and big corporations – but it’s the apparent absence of any popular wisdom that might in the past have resulted in an orchestrated rebellion to unseat evil or immoral authorities to replace them with something better.

It’s the ‘voting against without being clear about what I’m voting for’ mentality that is particularly disturbing. In some cases, minds have perhaps been made up by other minds, as communicated through their favourite newspaper, or television or radio station.

Were ‘unacceptable’ levels of immigration really the driver behind the UK referendum result last June? Or was the outcome more to do with a genuine desire for release from the Brussels powerbase to allow the UK its first chance in four decades to regain sovereignty and so become independent of the non-democratic political elite called the European Commission? How big a role has Trump’s proposed wall on the border with Mexico played in making him the most powerful man in the US? Or are Americans finally fed up that more than 75 per cent of the rules that govern their lives are decided by government agencies and not the people’s will or Congress?

Indeed, is the solution Donald Trump, or Brexit, or a British Parliament? Or is it something deeper, something more fundamental that has so far lain unidentified – or unexpressed – in the public consciousness?

I’ve just spent three days at the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine’s first international congress in Melbourne, where I presented three papers, including one plenary. Asked to speak on global perspectives, I decided to focus on the ‘Great Convergence’ as, in healthcare, we are facing the exact same thing as in the political arena. There is now major disillusionment with mainstream healthcare and a new distrust of GP-prescribed drugs. A growing number of people realize that many GPs are little more than sales reps for drug companies. They know that, at best, drugs relieve symptoms and never tackle the root cause of their illness.

Yet, for most people, it’s still unclear as to what they should do – even though the answers to the prevention, or even cure, of most diseases are evident in the science. The trouble is that pervasive biases have infected the medical sciences so deeply that it’s now impossible for the public (and often healthcare professionals too) to determine fact from fiction, fear tactics from marketing propaganda and even genuine facts from falsehoods in peer-reviewed papers.

Then there’s the medicolegal system that threatens to shut down doctors who step outside the pharmaceutically determined guidelines, while non-medical practitioners are pushed ever further into the bindweed-infested margins of healthcare.

Who created the medical curricula that today’s doctors are forced to swallow before getting their licence to practise? Why do they spend at least two years studying the pharmacology of unnatural agents, yet lack any formal education in lifestyle medicine, despite the unequivocal evidence that behavioural, dietary and lifestyle changes are by far the most powerful medicines we have?

Most people know they have to make significant alterations to their lives to restore their health, yet they receive no guidance from GPs – so suggesting that any changes are of minor importance to health – while government authorities issue food and activity guidelines that barely differ from our usual behavioural patterns. And we social animals will always follow the herd.

Nevertheless, there are doctors and members of the public who push against the tide and are reaping the benefits – including way more resilience than most, and an ability to handle levels of stress that would have most of us reaching for beta-blockers or antidepressants.

Those who have made such life choices understand our link with other living organisms. If we eat foods that keep the bugs in our gut healthy, we avoid unnecessarily battling against Nature. If we eat foods that are only minimally processed, we may obtain nearly all the sustenance we need – even though it’s difficult to find the diversity of plant nutrients needed for the balanced function of our 135-plus metabolic pathways. We also have to physically move a lot more than most people currently do.

Each one of us needs to reclaim the driving seat of our own healthcare microsystem. We must become re-empowered, seeking out well-informed healthcare professionals when we need additional guidance along the way.

With resilient bodies and minds, surely we can stop just blowing in the wind and find a sensible way to vote into power people that can govern us according to our will, not that of the ‘Establishment’.

Robert Verkerk PhD is the executive and scientific director of the Alliance for Natural Health International, a consumer group that aims to protect our right to natural healthcare and nutrition.

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Article Topics: Donald Trump, medicine
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