Just in case there were any doubt, the mantra once more; NH21 promotes “complementary” NOT “alternative” medicine. There is undoubtedly a great need for medical expertise at appropriate times. The issue however, is in determining when those times might, or might not, be.
Regarding advice on physical activity and dietary health, it seems to be the latter, as research conducted by Public Health England and published in the British Journal of General Practice showed that “80% of GPs in England say they are unfamiliar with the national guidelines, and more than one in seven doctors say they are not confident raising the issue of physical activity with their patients.” (1)
Co-author of the study, Justin Varney, comments that; “Many people have described physical activity as the most cost-effective drug we have, yet we are not implementing it properly,” and advises that; “This is as appropriate as having a conversation about smoking.”
This follows a disturbing decade-long study undertaken by the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina, which noted the following;
“Physician practice is often inadequate in addressing the nutrition aspects of diseases such as cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Physicians do not feel comfortable, confident, or adequately prepared to provide nutrition counseling, which may be related to suboptimal knowledge of basic nutrition science facts and understanding of potential nutrition interventions.” (2)
The report continued;
“Historically, nutrition education has been underrepresented at medical schools and residency programs. Our surveys over a decade show that most medical schools are still not ensuring adequate nutrition education, and they are not producing graduates with the nutrition competencies required in medical practice. Physicians, residents, and medical students clearly need more training in nutrition assessment and intervention.”
It would be easy to blame the doctors, who dish out meds on behalf of Big Pharma when there may be other, better, options available.
Take for example, type-2 diabetes, which affects around 4million people in the UK alone, and costs the NHS around 14-billion pounds annually in treatments including pharmaceutical grade insulin. Type-2 diabetes is fundamentally caused by excess sugar consumption. Medical treatment can save the lives of the worst affected but cannot cure the “condition” (NB: it is not a “disease”, it is self-inflicted damage made by poor lifestyle practice). The only effective treatment is eating less sugar and doing more exercise, and furthermore, it can be fully reversed without medicine.
Yet the bigger issue is the pressure doctors are under in general practice, who, according to Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, are given a paltry 10-minutes patient consultation timeframe! What hope is there of getting to the root cause of any condition, or advising patients on lifestyle modifications, in such an insignificant amount of time!
With Britain’s NHS currently facing a budget deficit of over 2-billion pounds, and calls for an extra 5000 GP’s to be drafted in over the next 3-years, something will surely have to give.
Modern medicine (and the public at large) must realize that it does not has to give up what it does well – that is, treat disease – it must simply recognize that by concentrating some energy on a programme to help people stay healthy it can better use its financial and human resources in crisis management and the treatment of disease.
2: Kelly Adams, Martin Kohlmeier, Margo Powell, and Steven Zeisel. (2010) Nutrition in Medicine: Nutrition Education for Medical Students and Residents. Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.