Addicted to an illusion? - Retirement Net by Linda Thompson

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Addicted to an illusion?

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Perhaps the most important aspect of the health care debate is being overlooked

Last year, Diane Rehm of National Public Radio talked with the well-known physician and author Dr. Andrew Weil about his new book, Why Our Health Matters. During that conversation, Dr. Weil offered some very profound thoughts about the state of our country's health care system (or should I say, lack thereof). Dr. Weil believes we need to be focusing on prevention of health issues rather than treatment of those issues after they surface. Why? Because it would tremendously decrease the cost of health care in our country. He believes we should be focusing on health, not on illness. Wouldn't you agree?

Pharmaceuticals vs. Common Sense

Did you know that the amount of money spent by pharmaceutical companies on research and development is miniscule when compared to the amount of money these pharmaceutical companies spend on advertising? Do you also know that New Zealand is the only other country on the planet that allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise direct to the consumer? And that drugs have the highest markup of any product in the United States? Now that's a wake up call! Do you believe that our medical community needs to stop capitalizing on the mindset that drugs are the only form of treatment?

Dr. Weil believes there should be a total ban on drugs being advertised direct to the consumer. The citizens of this nation must understand and educate their physicians that wellness is a much higher priority than illness. And they must stop being swayed by the myriad advertising that hits them 24/7 every day.

We've become a nation that expects and demands a quick fix for everything. Rather than get off our sofas, rather than eat what's right for us, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we have an obsessive need to pop a pill and believe that everything will be just great! And our medical community—the drug companies being the most prevalent—do absolutely nothing to counteract this mindset. Instead, we all believe that that little (albeit very expensive) one pill a day will alleviate the necessary for exercise, a healthy diet, and a commitment to maintaining good health.

My mother left this life at the age of 90 years and 42 days. She exited this life having never spent the night in a hospital, never having had a broken bone, nor was she taking any medications. She didn't believe a pill would solve her issue—that being of old age and her body wearing out. That's going to happen to all of us at some point. But wouldn't we prefer to make our exit as healthy and pain free as possible?

The Root of the Problem

In his new book, Dr. Weil goes to the root of the problem, showing how medical schools fail to give future doctors the best education 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. A quote from his website: "The collapse of our health care system can take our whole economy down. We are already spending more per capita on health than any other people in the world, yet we have the poorest health outcomes of any of the developed nations. Any attempt at reform will fail without an accompanying transformation of medicine."

This leads me to ask, what can you do about it? Begin by spreading the word that ingesting chemicals (prescription medications) is not always the optimal method for healthy living. I will concede that in some cases, prescription medications are good for you—that they will enable you to live a long, reasonably healthy lifestyle. But drugs must be kept in their place, not to be a placebo to all of us wishing to take the lazy out.

Take action!

Effective change can only take place at the bottom up, not the top down. It's a proven fact that grass roots movements can change the world. Isn't it time that we all speak up about living a healthy lifestyle free from the influences of pharmaceutical advertising? Let's take an active part in changing the health care system in our country. We must stop being swayed by the obsessive media and the scare tactics being used by the naysayers who are against any change. Educate yourselves on the issues, make informed decisions, and then inform your congressional representatives of your opinions. Before you let anyone sway your opinion, do your research—but do not let fear take priority in those decisions. True change is only accomplished by the collective action of everyone of us.

Linda Thompson is the author of Every Generation Needs a New Revolution, How Six Generations Across Nine Decades can Find Harmony and Peaceful Coexistence, Planning for Tomorrow, Your Passport to a Confident Future, a common sense approach to life planning; and A Caregiver’s Journey, You Are Not Alone, a survival guide for working caregivers. To find out more about Linda’s presentations, workshops and publications, visit

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