Successful disease prevention requires that we revise our understanding of traditional patient-doctor relationships. Western relationships between patients and physicians tend to foster an imbalance of power: many patients, in expecting to be “cured” or “fixed,” inadvertently delegate responsibility for their health to treating physicians. Traditional medical solutions, i.e. pharmaceutical drugs and surgeries, which relieve acute symptoms, without addressing underlying causes of, diseases, can result in the same problems reoccurring under similar circumstances.
Seeing doctor-patient relationships as “health partnerships” is a preliminary step in addressing our nation’s epidemic health issues, like heart disease (CVD), diabetes and obesity. “Health partnerships” necessitate that physicians educate, inspire and empower their patients’ “inner healers.” To effectively do so, physicians should learn about nutrition and other natural healing modalities, as well as get to know their patients beyond immediate disease symptoms. Likewise, through lifestyle modification, patients can take control of, and responsibility for, their health.
Medicine in the U.S. is overspecialized. Integrative, primary care physicians can practice “smart medicine.” I envision doctors of the future to be educated in both conventional and alternative systems and to know what elements of each system to employ when treating patients, preferably via a dual medical degree program: MD (Medical Doctor) and ND (Naturopathic Doctor). Likewise, I see the emergence of “metabolic cardiology,” treating and preventing illness at the cellular level, as the foundation of this new integrative health care model.
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