“Health is not valued until sickness comes.”
- Thomas Fuller
Healthcare and sickcare are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Healthcare is proactive and centered around preventing illness and promoting overall well-being. It involves a range of activities designed to maintain good health, such as regular exercise, healthy eating habits, regular check-ups with a doctor, preventative screenings, and, most importantly, taking charge of your health. On the other hand, sickcare is reactive. It focuses primarily on treating illness and diseases and managing symptoms. This type of care typically involves medical interventions such as medications, surgeries, and treatment plans.
Dr. Jane is a brilliant physician passionate about using natural remedies to treat high blood pressure. She believes that medication can have serious side effects and often only masks the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause of the problem. Dr. Jane has created a program focusing on a holistic approach to managing hypertension through diet and lifestyle changes.
When a new patient, Richard, comes into her practice with a family history of high blood pressure, Dr. Jane is eager to put her program to the test. Richard is skeptical and has been on medications for years. However, after just a few weeks of following Dr. Jane's program, Richard's blood pressure has already started to improve! As he continues working with Dr. Jane, he discovers that his high-stress job and unhealthy lifestyle choices have contributed to his hypertension. Richard starts to make positive changes in his life, like walking, practicing meditation, and cooking healthy meals at home. Not only does he see improvements in his blood pressure, but he also notices that he feels happier and more energized. Dr. Jane falls into the category of a Naturopathic physician or a healthcare practitioner.
Dr. Smith is a highly renowned physician and professor of medicine who believes that all diseases can only be effectively treated with drugs. In a recent interview with a popular medical journal, Dr. Smith argues that alternative therapies, including natural remedies and lifestyle changes, are largely ineffective and should not be relied on as primary treatment options. He believes that drug-based treatment offers the best chance of success for patients. Dr. Smith would identify as a conventional physician or a sickcare doctor.
If you had a choice of doctors, which would you choose?
I would choose Dr. Jane, but unfortunately, doctors like her are hard to find. Most practitioners in the U.S. are "Dr. Smith." According to the Association of American Medical Colleges' 2022 Physician Specialty Data Report, there were approximately 1,000,000 active physicians in the U.S. in 2021, with only about 6,000 Naturopathic practitioners. So most of us are stuck with sickcare providers. Since we are, it would greatly benefit us to know how to navigate a system not designed to prevent disease and promote wellness.
Having worked in the health field for 40 years, in prevention and treatment, I know the sickcare system reasonably well. So when it comes to taking care of my health, I have an excellent primary care doctor that I like, and respect, and I knew when I chose him over 30 years ago, he operated in a sickcare system that focused primarily on diagnosing and treating diseases. But he came highly recommended by several nurses who all said the same thing: he had his patients’ best interest at heart which means a lot when you’re operating in a system that allows practitioners an average of 15 minutes per patient. Because he takes time to listen to his patients, the wait time to see him is longer, but he's worth the wait for me. Not only do I respect his medical opinion, but he also respects mine as an informed consumer who doesn't always agree with conventional treatment plans and recommendations. We get along just fine; I even manage to get a laugh or two out of him when I remind him that as much as I like him, I do my best not to see him more than once a year.
Now, don't get me wrong. America has one of the best sickcare systems in the world; however, the level of care you receive depends on your ability to pay, which means not all sick people are treated equally. Knowing this, I decided over 30 years ago to focus on wellness.
My healthcare team includes my primary care doctor, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and herbalist. And I'm grateful that despite being told 14 years ago that cervical stenosis would paralyze me if I didn’t have surgery right away, my team has kept me upright and mobile. I'm proud to be flying high on the “Wings of Gratitude," the powerful internal energy of goodness that taught me to appreciate and love my body and mind enough to do a better job of becoming my own best health advocate.
Here are 5 Tips to help you become your own best healthcare advocate:
1. Be an informed consumer. Seek reliable information about your illness or condition. Here are a few sources:
National Institutes of Health https://www.nih.gov/
Web MD https://www.webmd.com/
The Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/
Medline Plus https://medlineplus.gov/
2. Ask questions. Jot them down so that you remember them. When answers are given that you need help understanding, ask for clarification.
3. Get familiar with your insurance. Call and ask questions about what it covers and does not cover.
4. Keep a healthcare Journal. Track your symptoms, the date/time of doctor's visits, questions and answers, and your feelings surrounding your illness/condition.
5. Know that your health and well-being are your responsibility, not your doctor's. They have hundreds of patients. What makes you think that they have time to devote to you only? They are there to diagnose and treat.
And here's the easy part, it all begins with keeping a Gratitude Journal. Fly with me on the small change “Wings of Gratitude!”