Monday, January 5, 2009

Well, Well, Well: Can’t we all just get along?

We have, along with everything else that is ailing, an ailing health care system, and we have not-at-all-ailing CEOs serving on our health board, and a health minister scoffing at the criticism coming his way, and the former chair of the Capital Health Authority investigating the ethics of appointments to the health board that replaced his.

What we need on that board is, of course, a little more health savvy—people who know their way around medical journals, people who know their way around alternative health science journals, people who know something about nutritional and biological and preventative medicine—so we can save our emergency rooms for grave maladies instead of the kind we can predict with absolute certainty will only continue to increase in volume.

We have epidemics of chronic degenerative disease and drug dependencies and STDs and cancer and heart disease and anxiety and insomnia and despair in young people already too disillusioned to commit to much of anything, and we’re being told not to worry about health care or the banks or our jobs or our futures; we’re being told, literally, just to go for a walk and listen to some music.

We have endless lineups to see doctors and specialists whose help frustrates us endlessly because after waiting forever there’s not much of a cure for what ails us. Last [month] we had AIDS day, and we have more awareness days and weeks and months than we can handle, and we’re tired of hearing about epidemics and depressions because Christmas [has come] and we just want to be happy and feel good and optimistic about the world. We want to know that it’ll all be OK, and that 50 is the new 40 for all of us, not only for the rich and famous who can afford special private and alternative health care.

And I’m tired of the voices championing all things green out of one side of their mouths while remaining silent on the absolute contradiction between pharmaceutically based medicine and saving our Earth. Because drugs are anything but green—just ask those living near drug manufacturing factories like those in India who are shouldering an enormous burden of ecological devastation.

All it takes to know that natural medicines are beautiful for what ails most of us most of the time is a few conversations with ex-pharmacists old enough to remember their training in herbal medicine or pharmacists who, because they were tired of the chemical nightmares they were having, have quit the business and now dispense biological medicines.

I can already hear the usual arguments that surely we shouldn’t be promoting treatments that don’t work. Spare me. We all know it’s infinitely more complex than either working or not working. Chemo therapy and anti-cholesterol drugs and psychiatric meds don’t work well much of the time and too often cause untold harm.

We could—here’s a novel thought—integrate the best of both kinds of medicine, or has working together become a complete dinosaur?

Why should those undergoing the ravages of chemo or antivirals have to pay out-of-pocket for nutritional treatments that offset the side effects? Why should those who opt out of conventional treatments and who claim their cancer or arthritis or bipolar or death sentence has been in remission for a decade or two as a result of their holistic or natural approach be labeled as crazies promoting woo?

Thinking about this can make me want to cry, which new research has again confirmed to be good for us. And for those who have difficulty letting themselves cry, acupuncture—that voodoo needing no more than aptly placed needles to induce tears and relieve pain—offers a vast improvement over picking a fight or getting drunk to get those stress chemicals out of their systems. But though acupuncture and natural medicines do infinitely more than relieve stress, they are still not covered by health care insurance and are available mostly only to the wealthy and those willing to go into debt to access them.

© Vue Weekly, Connie Howard, December 4, 2008:

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