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Latest Posts

Denying The Obesity Epidemic

It seems that for every established science there is an ideological group who is motivated to deny it. Denialism is a thriving pseudoscience and affects any issue with the slightest political or social implications. Sometimes, even easily verifiable facts can be denied, as people seem willing to make up their own facts as needed.

Denialists have an easy job — to spread doubt and confusion. It is far easier to muddy the waters with subtle distortions and logical fallacies than it is to set the record straight. Even when every bit of misinformation is countered, the general public is often left with the sense that the topic is controversial or uncertain. If denial is in line with a group’s ideology, then even the suggestion of doubt may be enough to reject solid science.

We see this when it comes to the effectiveness of vaccines, the evolution of life on earth, and anthropogenic global warming. A recent Pew poll shows that the campaign of global warming denial has been fairly successful — while the science becomes more solid around the consensus that the earth is warming and humans are contributing to this, the public is becoming less convinced.

I often encounter denial even when it comes to simple things, like body weight. You would think that the question of how many Americans are overweight or obese would be fairly straightforward, but no data is so straightforward that it cannot be distorted by dedicated ideologues. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Public Health Should Be Apolitical

You can be for freedom. You can be for smaller government that intrudes less. You can be for lower taxes. You can be for most anything, but if you’re interested in improving the sagging health of American citizens, get on Michael Bloomberg’s wheel.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bar city residents from using food stamps to buy sugary soft drinks. It turns out that last year $135 million in food stamp money was used for the consumption of these obesity-fostering beverages in NYC alone.

Mr Bloomberg is morphing into a real-world public health super star. Previously, he was a pioneer in banning smoking in restaurants and bars. They said it could not be done, or that it wouldn’t work. Well, the naysayers were dead wrong. Now public smoking bans our commonplace and, backed by objective data, are accepted as having prevented thousands of heart attacks. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Patient Empowerment: Is It What Americans Really Want?

Empowered patient. Consumer driven healthcare. Transparency. Access to their full medical records online. Review the latest news and you’ll discover more books and articles recommending patients be advocates for themselves. The pitch? The only way to get the best care is to be thorough, informed, and always asking questions.

This perspective is understandable because advocates have observed a healthcare system that provides inconsistent quality, too many preventable medical errors, and overtreatment resulting in unnecessary injuries and deaths. Even I’ve written a book saying the same thing, and I hate to write. 

The public is urged to take charge of their health and their healthcare. When they have a problem, ask the doctor questions. Do research. If they need a procedure, shop around to get the best deal. Adopt good habits. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Stop smoking. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise regularly. These will improve health and be less costly in the long run.  

But is this what Americans really want? Do they want to be empowered patients? Can they be empowered patients? Frankly, no. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

A Multi-Prong Attack On Fatness

If I was Surgeon General, I would follow the lead of our country’s first Mom, Michelle Obama. This is serious folks. We as an American society need to solve the obesity crisis, not just for our physical health, but for our country’s financial stability.

Reducing the spiraling costs of healthcare is wanted by all. So far, prevention of the diseases which contribute most to our healthcare costs, (heart disease, cancer and orthopedic issues, to name just a few) has been given only lip service, by our future supplier of healthcare — the American government.

It turns out that the mechanisms to reduce our most costly ailments are the same as those that mitigate obesity. It is like simple math. (If a=b, and b=c, than a=c.)  If lifestyle choices reduce obesity, and less obesity means less consumption of healthcare for heart disease and cancer, than better lifestyle choices means less healthcare consumption. Bunches less. (See, simple math was not so useless.) It is for this reason that I believe the most productive way to reduce health care expenditures is to reduce obesity. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Americans Are Cutting Back On Healthcare

The Wall Street Journal reported that overall medical use fell as patients had fewer doctor office visits, lab testing, and maintenance medications possibly due to the recession or as a result of consumer-driven healthcare in the way of higher deductibles and copays. This is very worrisome.

Certainly patients should have some financial responsibility for their care, but skimping on care will only result in Americans not becoming healthier, but sicker. Though the article cited some examples of patients saving money by not seeing their allergist for a refill of medication and simply calling for one and getting an athletic physical at a local urgent care clinic for $40 rather than $90 at the doctor’s office, these tiny behavior changes aren’t going to bend the cost curve in medical care. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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