The big mistakes in our healthcare system. Why positive medicine is the answer.
Our current healthcare system needs to be transformed to focus on promoting health and wellbeing, rather than solely treating illness. Positive medicine offers a fresh approach that views patients as experts in their own health and recognises the interconnectedness of physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health, drawing inspiration from the Māori view of hauroa. However, several significant mistakes, such as underinvestment in prevention and mental health, and the influence of big pharma, have hindered our progress towards achieving this goal. These mistakes in our healthcare system have resulted in a system that is often fragmented, inefficient, and culturally insensitive. To truly serve the needs of all people, we must address these issues and build a healthcare system that prioritises the promotion of health and wellbeing for everyone. Read on to explore these issues further and discover what needs to be done to create a positive medicine model for the future.
#1 Little Money for Prevention: Only 2-3% of worldwide healthcare spending goes towards stopping health problems before they start.
Despite the scientifically proven results and well-established benefits of preventive care, such as reducing the incidence and severity of chronic diseases, we continue to underfund this critical aspect of healthcare. Instead, many of our resources are devoted to treating illnesses once they have already developed, leading to higher costs and poorer outcomes. To overcome this big mistake in our healthcare system we must prioritise prevention if we hope to create a healthier future for all.
#2 Unhealthy Behaviors Fuel Disease: Poor lifestyle choices are behind 71% of all deaths worldwide due to noncommunicable diseases.
Rising obesity (tripling since 1975, with 39% of adults overweight and 13% obese), increasing cancer cases (predicted to rise by 47% from 2020 to 2040), surging type 2 diabetes prevalence (expected to affect 578 million people by 2030) and escalating dementia cases (expected to nearly triple to 152 million by 2050) are all straining healthcare systems. These sobering statistics highlight the urgent need for individuals, communities and policymakers to prioritise healthy behaviors such as regular exercise, a balanced diet and stress reduction. By addressing the root causes of chronic diseases, we can improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs in the long run.
#3 Big Pharma’s Massive Influence: The global pharmaceutical market, worth $1.27 trillion, often puts profits over public health.
Just one example of many is the aggressive marketing of opioid painkillers, despite their addictive nature, which has significantly contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis, leading to widespread addiction and countless overdose-related deaths. While pharmaceuticals play an important role in treating and managing many health conditions, the industry’s profit-driven approach can lead to harmful outcomes. We must prioritise public health over corporate profits, and ensure that medications are prescribed and used safely and appropriately.
#4 Widespread Burnout Among Doctors: A staggering 67% of doctors around the world experience burnout symptoms
The demands of modern medicine, including long hours, high stress, not enough staff and high admin burdens are taking a toll on our healthcare providers. We must prioritise the well-being of our frontline workers if we hope to maintain a high-quality healthcare system. One way of reducing workloads and fostering a culture of work-life balance is to bolster our health workforce with well trained health coaches.
#5 Mental Health Care Gets Shortchanged: Despite making up 13% of the global disease burden, mental health services receive just 2% of healthcare spending
Mental health conditions are a major contributor to disability and poor health outcomes worldwide, yet they are often neglected in healthcare budgets and policies. We must prioritise mental health as a critical aspect of overall health and wellbeing, and invest in prevention, early intervention and access to effective treatment.
#6 Health Professionals Need More Training
Another of the mistakes in our healthcare system: only 29% of medical schools provide the minimum recommended hours of nutrition education. This is a significant oversight given the impact that diet and nutrition can have on overall health. Lack of nutrition education can lead to inadequate counselling and advice from healthcare providers and may contribute to the growing burden of diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
#7 Big Mistake in our Healthcare System: Fragmented and Culturally Insensitive Healthcare Systems
In many countries healthcare systems are poorly coordinated, leading to inefficiencies, miscommunication, and suboptimal care. This fragmentation can cause delays in treatment, increased costs and inadequate support for patients with complex or chronic conditions. Add to this a lack of cultural awareness which often results in the neglect of unique cultural, linguistic, and social needs of various populations, contributing to disparities in access to quality healthcare for minority and underserved communities.
Addressing these issues will require significant investment in healthcare infrastructure and policies that prioritise patient-centered care, coordinated communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals, and culturally sensitive approaches to care. It will also require increased resources and training for healthcare providers to better understand and address the unique needs of diverse patient populations. Only then can we hope to build truly equitable, effective, and sustainable healthcare systems that serve all members of society.
Louise Schofield is the co-founder and CEO of PREKURE. Her mission is to inspire a change in medicine to be more preventative in focus. She is passionate about eliminating the over-prescribing of medication that offers little or no benefit, poor nutritional advice and programs which don’t work, and for the medical community to embrace a preventative, lifestyle medicine approach.
Worldwide healthcare spending: World Health Organization, 2021
Lifestyle choices and noncommunicable diseases: World Health Organization, 2018
The global pharmaceutical market: Statista, 2021
Burnout among doctors: Rotenstein et al., 2018
Mental healthcare spending: World Health Organization, 2021
Health professionals nutrition training: Adams et al., 2010
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