President Obama’s last State of the Union address included a call to a “moonshot”-like mission to find cures for cancer. He entrusted Vice President Joe Biden—who recently lost his son to cancer—to spearhead the project.
The next morning, Dr. Ronald DePinho, President of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) about current progress in his institution’s cancer research. After mentioning several promising findings, Dr. DePinho emphasized—repeatedly— that the best anti-cancer weapon is prevention.
With all due respect to Dr. DePinho… duh? Although I was delighted by this overdue emphasis by a physician on prevention, I wondered if it was tinged with an inadvertent admission that commonsense might have an edge over degrees and expertise. While it’s possible that other members of the medical profession have been aware of, and even voicing similar opinions, it is frustrating that still so few of them conduct their practices according to the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Even worse, that so many others continue to treat diseases mostly with one-size-fits-all prescription drugs—all of which have side-effects ranging from mild to lethal—and
occasionally with surgeries, instead of learning less toxic or invasive ways to protect patients from getting sick in the first place.
The healthcare industry’s resistance to shifting some of the emphasis from medical protocols to prevention through better nutrition, regular exercise and healthier lifestyle choices is, frankly, incomprehensible. Especially since medical and nursing schools have already implemented government-mandated expansion of nutrition education—which, one would think, is a clear signal to already practicing professionals that it is time to update their training in that important tool for disease prevention.
For example, it is high time that physicians, nurses and researchers learn to connect the dots between the prevalence of cancer—especially the epidemic of this horrific and multi-faceted disease among children—and the reckless overuse of highly toxic (and especially carcinogenic) chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, etc., as well as antibiotics, hormones, genetically modified or engineered (GMO and GE) in agriculture, livestock, fish farms and processed foods.
The healthcare industry’s reluctance to connect these dots is especially frustrating in light of the daily flood of alarming media reports about research findings by leading scientists and institutions about the toxicity of our food and water supply; and equally abundant information about the growing demand for, and acceptance of successful alternative (non-invasive, drug-free, vitamins- and supplements-aided) treatments by holistic healthcare practitioners.
Evidence of the increasing popularity of the latter is in the proliferation of alternate therapy centers located in hospitals and clinics touting “Integrative Medical Facilities,” as well as in free-standing concierge establishments, where such holistic healing services as nutrition, exercise and stress-management plans are customized for individual patients.
Since it takes time and effort to persuade most people to adopt healthier lifestyles, the only way to speed up the process is by implementing a well-designed, collaborative program linking
- Government institutions involved in environmental protection (EPA),
- agriculture (USDA),
- food safety (FDA) and
- healthcare (USD of HHS)—
in a coordinated process with the healthcare and food industries—to
- restore soil,
- reduce the use of toxic chemicals and expand organic growing practices in agriculture and farming;
- clear pollution from air and water through implementation of innovative techniques in sewage and water treatment;
- help slow climate change by charging fees (tax) for carbon emissions and other air pollution; and
- increase healthcare focus on disease prevention and therapeutic methods that are, whenever possible, less costly, less invasive and less toxic.
Who is in Charge?
Each of us has both the responsibility and the Power of One to bring about some degree of collaboration among these stakeholders—as well as to contribute to making the process as fast and successful as possible. Some of the tools available to all of us at this time are as easy as making an ongoing commitment to signing petitions, writing emails, making phone calls and finding every other means to persuade those with the most influence, bureaucratic access, political power and humanistic vision and willingness to make this a healthier nation—and maybe a better world. (I walk my talk, having been doing this for decades.)
Let’s get to work.
Dina Eliash Robinson