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Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future Hardcover – September 8, 2009
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A landmark book that shows us exactly how we have let health and medicine become a crisis in our society and what we can all do to resolve it.
Healthcare is no longer just a public issue; for millions of Americans it is now a crisis on their own doorstep. Cost of medical care today are a leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Although policy makers have weighed in on all sides, in this book, bestselling author Andrew Weil, M.D., identifies the root of the problem. He shows us exactly how we have become embroiled in the present situation and provides a solution that will not only make healthcare affordable, but will also put each one of us on the road to optimum health.
Dr. Weil states that we have a right to good healthcare that is effective, accessible, and affordable. Many Americans would be surprised to know that our national health is far from the best in the world, even though we spend more money on it than any other country. The World Health Organization recently rated America thirty-seventh in health outcomes, on par with Serbia. Tackling head-on the Three Major Myths of American Medicine, Dr. Weil shows how medical schools fail to give future doctors the education they need to care for patients, how insurance companies have destroyed our opportunity to get excellent care, and how pharmaceutical companies have come to rule our lives. The solution involves nothing less than the creation of a completely new culture of health and medicine in this country, one that we can each start building today.
A Q&A with Dr. Andrew Weil
Question: Why did you write Why Our Health Matters?
Answer: I wrote Why Our Health Matters because I care very much about health, about my profession, and about my country. I would like to see people become informed, and upset and angry with the facts about health care in America. I want them to understand how much we are paying and how little we are getting. I want to show them all the things that have to change.Q: Can you talk about the three myths of American health care and the realities?
A: I think many people buy into three myths about American health care that really deaden us to the realities.
The first is that because American health care is the most expensive in the world, it must be the best. The reality is that although we spend more per capita on health care than any people in the world by a long shot, our health outcomes are at or near the bottom compared to those of other developed countries. The World Health Organization recently ranked America thirty-seventh in a survey of countries in terms of health-care outcomes. That puts us on a par with Serbia. And that’s any way you look at it, whether it’s in terms of infant mortality, longevity, or rates of chronic disease.
The second myth is that having the most elaborate and expensive medical technology in the world must translate into medical excellence. The reality is that medical technology has helped us in certain areas like the management of trauma and critical conditions. It has, however, served us very poorly in terms of creating cost-effective health care. In fact, one of the main reasons American health care is so expensive is that our interventions are based in expensive technology—including pharmaceutical drugs. There are many low-tech methods of intervening in disease that our doctors simply don’t learn. Also, our entire health-care system is geared toward intervention in established disease, yet the vast majority of that disease is lifestyle related and therefore preventable.
The third myth is that we have the best medical schools and research institutions in the world and that they are producing the best physicians and the best research in the world. The fact is that we have a great medical infrastructure, in terms of bricks and mortar and very highly trained faculty. But the curriculum of medical school—and this is also true of nursing and pharmacy schools—omits very large areas that are extremely relevant to health and healing. For example, our health professionals know next to nothing about nutrition. They don’t learn about botanical medicine. They don’t learn about mind/body interactions. We conduct a great deal of research, but the fraction of it that is relevant to health and healing and to developing cost-effective treatment strategies is very low.
A: I think our efforts at prevention are feeble because we work from a model of prevention that is not very robust. The cornerstone of prevention should be lifestyle medicine. That means teaching people how to make better choices about how they eat, how they exercise, how they rest, how they neutralize stress. This is primarily something that needs to be done in terms of education, but the whole society has to pull in the same direction. The government and corporations both have to work to make the right lifestyle choices affordable and easy. You can’t have the federal government telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables while at the same time making unhealthy foods cheap and healthy foods expensive through its patterns of crop subsidies. Also, a lot of our preventive efforts are very limited in that they have a lopsided preference for pharmaceutical drugs, like statins to prevent heart attacks or bone-building drugs to prevent osteoporosis. This is not the most cost-effective way to prevent disease. We need to think about prevention in new and better ways.Q: What is health and who is responsible for it?
A: To me health is an inner state of balance and resilience that allows you to move through life and not get hurt by all the things out there that have the potential to hurt you. An image that I like to use to illustrate that is a child’s knock-down toy with a weighted bottom. You can knock it over; it bounces back up to the center. You can hold it down; it will stay down for as long as you hold it, but if you let go, it bounces back to center. If you have that kind of inner springiness or resilience you can interact with germs and not get infections. You can interact with allergens and not have allergic responses. You can interact with toxins and not be harmed. That’s a quality that we’re all born with. This quality is innate, but it’s up to us to learn how to protect and enhance that quality as we go through life. So I think, ultimately, that health is an individual responsibility. But it’s also the responsibility of society to help us in that effort.Read the entire interview [PDF]
-The New York Times Magazine
"Dr. Andrew Weil is an extraordinary phenomenon."
-The Washington Post
Top Customer Reviews
I am not going to quote the whole book, I'm note even going to rattle off some of the very disturbing statistics of just how horrible a shape we're in. I am going to say that Dr. Weil makes a fair and informed argument for his idea of change, praising the areas where we excel and pointing out the areas of grave failure. While everyone is arguing about how to give more people access to the system, Dr. Weil draws attention to the root of the problem, the system itself.
His ideas are not so radical. They are old ideas, applied to a new era of medicine. We've lost a lot of what made our doctors great, what made them proud of their jobs and their roles in our communities. The trillion dollar industries of health insurance, pharmaceuticals, and medical technologies have distorted our views of what is beneficial, appropriate, and necessary when it comes to our health. High-tech health care has its place, but we also need to take responsibility for our lifestyles and not rely on a pill or surgery to fix the problems we created by our own choices. They don't always work.
Awareness must come first, before the solutions. Reading this book certainly helped me realize that our health care crisis is going to go from bad to worse in short order if this country doesn't make a major course correction. It starts with me, my health, my choices, and whether or not you agree with Dr. Weil's plan for America, my hope is that it makes you examine your own life and decide that your health DOES matter.
Andrew Weil has the right diagnosis and the right cure for what ails America-- he helps you understand why so many people have health problems and crippling health costs, despite the myth that America is number one in health. (Hint-- our real rank in health status is way down the list with the Serbians!)
This book answers every single question about why the health of US citizens is worse (and more costly) than that of folks in all other developed nations.
In a clear, thoughtful, readable and no-nonsense way, Weil assesses what works and what doesn't work in US health care, and proposes the major changes we need to get health care right in this country.
For health information and action, get the free ezine the Health Outlook at [...]
This book is political to some extent and addresses his view on the need for expanding IM on the national scene by means of a combination grass roots and national health plan - a very timely and relevant discussion. Whether you agree or disagree with the author's viewpoint and policy discussions, he does provide compelling and well thought out arguments.
Overall the author states that the system is broken due to a focus on disease management and high technology - which are both costly and unsustainable. Dr. Weil proposes that healthcare should focus on preventative medicine and personal, localized treatment. In addition to these ideas there are some good health tips thrown in for good measure.
I recommend this book for those interested in the national healthcare debate, forward thinking medical philosophies, and health tips. At a minimum this book will get you thinking about your health and areas which contribute to your well-being. This is the first book I have read of Dr. Weil's, however I plan on reading the others having enjoyed "Why Our Health Matters."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I liked the book a lot. But some of my friends with whom I shared it were put off by its title, saying that our health matters is something obvious, so what's new the author is... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Kaushal N Agrawal
I am a big fan of Dr. Weil's approach to health. He is completely correct in saying that we can be healthier as individuals and as a society by avoiding the things that make us... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Fredric D. Williams
Good book written by one of the few medical celebrities I trust. Most are only in it for the money. Dr. Weil's profits go to charity.Published 20 months ago by S. vineyard
It's a great album, lot of info on our Health Care System, which has taken out the word "Care". Must listen if you want to find out about our medical futurePublished on August 15, 2013 by Satish Satpute
With the implementation of Obama Care moving forward, we all need to be more vigilant on what is available. Read morePublished on February 4, 2013 by Dr. Wilson Trivino
The author makes some valid points here, but most of them should already be common sense: America's health care system is entirely focused on disease rather than health (to our... Read morePublished on June 10, 2012 by Burgundy Damsel
The tone in this book is obnoxious. It is written entirely in first person, yet Weil does not show any restraint in his use of wishy washy phrases like "I believe. Read morePublished on July 19, 2011 by Molly
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The book merely gives example after example.Published on September 14, 2010 by Jason
It was good to hear Dr. Weil's commentary on the state of our health care and his suggestions on being more proactive on disease prevention. Read morePublished on June 29, 2010 by Anya Sherwood