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Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future Hardcover – September 8, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product Description
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.

Q: Why aren’t we doing better at preventing disease in this country?

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]


"Dr. Weil has arguably become America's best known doctor."
-The New York Times Magazine

"Dr. Andrew Weil is an extraordinary phenomenon."
-The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594630666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594630668
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,454,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By K. M. VINE VOICE on September 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Andrew Weil doesn't mince words; he joins the health care reform fray with a "radical" point of view: "Most commentators assume that the root problems are (a) how to give more people access to the present system and (b) how to pay for it. I strongly disagree." In recent weeks Weil has appeared on CNN, written articles (Google for them), and, now, released a new book, Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future, urging a fundamental shift from "high-tech" to "high-touch." He makes the persuasive case that our accelerating reliance on expensive medical technology and medicine have contributed greatly to ballooning health care costs: on page 70 of the book, he lists 1950 costs of U.S. care at $8 billion, 1980 costs at $212 billion, and 2009 costs at $2.5 trillion (with a T). He also estimates future costs in 2015 at $4 trillion. Even adjusting for general economic inflation and related factors, these are staggering increases that amount to one-sixth of earnings presently (p. 123). Weil insists that for this reason, "high-tech disease intervention...is obsolete." He wants less reliance on expensive pharmaceuticals, scans, surgeries, specialist ,hospital stays; and more emphasis on integrative medicine which treats patients not just for isolated symptoms but as whole persons. He wants the general practitioner to make a comeback. He wants doctors who will take personally take lengthy histories, listen carefully, recommend dietary modifications, offer exercises for stress relief, refer to practitioners of Chinese or chiropractic medicine if appropriate, etc. He says, frankly and convincingly, that continuing high-tech is simply unsustainable.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The hard truth, a truth that Dr. Weil communicates expertly, is that America is NOT #1 when it comes to health care. We may spend the most, but as the book states, if any other industry performed as poorly and cost this much, we would have stopped throwing money at it years ago. It is difficult for free enterprise to function properly when the product being offered may mean life or death. This is where the system breaks down.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the most timely and essential book you will ever read.

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 [...]
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Format: Hardcover
"Why Our Health Matters" is not your typical health book. It addresses the author's style of treatment called Integrative Medicine (IM) which is a blend of conventional and whole body treatment. What I really enjoyed about this book was the conversational tone and approachable style - despite the author's Harvard education and decades of medical practice, he has still made the subject matter easy to understand and engaging.

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."
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