Here I share my thoughts on human health and disease. They are reflections along my own journey and based on questions people have asked me. My reflections are not intended to serve as gospel truth; rather to encourage learning and a willingness to grow together.
I think of health and wellness as our natural base line state. Sometimes we experience sickness and ill-health. When this happens to me I try to remember that illness, is not something to be feared, destroyed, or wage a war against. Rather it is a call to attention to heal my life using a combination of methods that are personalised and precise.
As a doctor and researcher in allopathic medicine I love evidence based practice that helps me to be true to science and discover the best possible treatment paradigms for myself and my patients. As a daughter of a holistically minded family, I know there are other ancient forms of medicine such as Ayurveda, Chinese, Maori and Native American etc. that have healed people for centuries. I am respectful to all.
I believe the best medicine is complete and embraces humanity as a whole. It's goal is to promote health and wellness and heal the sick. Ancient cultures understood this well. e.g. in Maori culture there are many different models of health that acknowledge the physical dimension and dimensions such as spirituality and family.
Today we are learning about the merits of integrated approaches. It makes sense to me that combining the best of every system, respecting people with love and understanding; the true potential of human health and wellness can be unveiled.
Fatigue. Yes, I think burn out is our greatest challenge.
When tired we do not have the clarity of thought to explore reality at depth and make wise choices. We are vulnerable to a superficial level of enquiry and hurried decision making with short term results in mind.
Gross fatigue is easier to recognise. A subtle level of progressive brain fog is much more challenging.
Modern life is complex. We rely on our diverse skill sets and expertise to create a cohesive whole in health care. Fatigue in the system can have a domino effect much more easily.
Fatigue can affect both providers of health care and those the system cares for.
Yes I do believe it is. However, it takes effort be aware, and invest in creating a sustainable world that supports rest and rejuvenation.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the key way in which we can be aware of our own energy levels and be sensitive to our own needs, the needs of those around us, and the needs of the environment.
When mindful we can take better action to sleep well, exercise, have good nutrition and time to nurture our selves, our communities, and our environments. We can prioritise our resources and make long term investments to improve human health.
Our health is our greatest gift. Our humanity is most precious. We need to meet the needs of each person as individuals and at population levels. Hence we need to be able to look at the complete picture and understand it. The richness of our similarities and diversity belong to an interconnected organism called Earth. An Earth which seems to be asking us to slow down and allow her to breathe.
Yet, modern life pushes us to sacrifice that which is most sacred, i.e. time. It demands more and more of our time to survive or thrive. I did it too. Despite being a doctor, allegedly in the category of people who should have known better.
It took me a while as an adult to look myself in the eye and acknowledge my own insanely busy life. I had to ask a difficult question. Did I really honour the wisdom I once knew?
In finding my own path in a pandemic I found a home in Gaia (Mother Earth) and wisdom that was timeless; I hope I can share this with you to do the same. I am encouraged to see that so many people share the vision of returning to Earth and honouring her land, soil, waterways and air to restore our health as a whole.
Focusing on the mind alone creates a certain sterility that does not honour the richness of being human. Our emotions, feelings, beliefs, and hopes are just as important, as the more tangible elements and processes we are able to measure and compute.
The human heart has a wisdom and intuition that complements the mind. Together they create something special. In modern society we are less comfortable with honouring the wisdom of the heart. Our education does not teach us to understand or honour the heart.
However, shutting it down and ignoring its richness would be a mistake.
Today we have the opportunity and privilege to learn how to integrate heart and mind and make wiser choices. There are many ways. I share mine. I encourage you to find your own.
Space is sacred. How we add to it is what counts. Beauty uplifts and can only be defined in the eye of the one who beholds.
There is no doubt that as humans we have different tastes. Creating our environments in ways that uplift us is a powerful way to improve of health and vitality. There are many ancient traditions that provide guidance on how we may make our environments beautiful. Equally there are several modern day programs and people who specialise in design. We all have a role to play.
Recognising the value of aesthetics in wellness is a powerful beginning to create a happy world. Sourcing items responsibly from the natural world and reducing waste is a part of aesthetics too. Creating beauty in one place and accumulating trash at another site is not a true creation of genuine beauty.
It is also important to remember that creating a beautiful environment should not be associated with a heavy price tag. We need to have options for every budget.
Keeping our space beautiful is a daily process and the space grows with us.
Continued : )
Excellent question ! There are many. My top three would be research that helps us understand and optimise:
1. Our immune system
2. Human factors which lead to better decision making and performance
3. Personalised precision medicine
This is a complex problem with no easy quick solutions. However, if we look at the big picture the first place to focus on - is reducing the amount of disease in the population by investing in eduction in life style choices that keep humans well. Every community has different needs. Our health care systems need to be adaptable and share expertise globally.
A second important strategy is to look at staff retention. Burn out levels are high. Experienced health care workers are irreplaceable. We need to invest in creating systems that allow health care workers at to be well and educate the next generation.
A third important strategy is to look closely at the work done by each member of the team and ask how tasks may be done by others who can be trained to do so safely. e.g. A physicians assistant is invaluable in making the life of a doctor more efficient so that they can help more patients.
AI will also have a significant role in the future. It is important that the medical profession works closely with the technology developers such as google to create a true synergy of expertise and skill to advance patient care. This is already happening in many prestigious insituitions. There is potential to characterise disease, and share expertise in a way we have never done before, equally there are pitfalls. e.g. In the quest of early detection we can label normal variants, and early changes as sickness which results in over treatment.
There is a balance to be achieved between automation and the human touch; paper work and doing the job well.
Communication, education, trust and respect our critical.
There are many ways to communicate information. However, we all have different styles and information needs to be communicated explaining the nuances of certainty/uncertainty, and relevance to a given individual, community, or situation. This is not an easy task. It is particularly challenging when decisions are made at peak times of stress due to illness.
There are often choices in treatment options. Choices which can have different levels of success as a treatment and very different associated morbidity and mortality. What is acceptable to an athlete maybe very different to a concert pianist. To support health care providers and patients enter the best path with understanding and responsibility takes time and education.
Yes. Health education is a vital investment to create a healthy society.
One of the most important things we need to learn is how to handle stress. In a world which has increasing challenges our bodies no longer have the luxury of plateaus where life simply carried on (allowing periods of rest and recovery). Actively reducing the impact of the stress response is a powerful way to feel better and reduce the wear and tear on our bodies. We can all learn to manage its impacts on our thoughts, decision making and emotions.
We also need to educate people re. nutrition, hydration and sleep. These are core life skills which are ideally taught at a young age. The old analogy the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The second best time is today. I think of health education as an on going process irrespective of age.
We must also learn to be self aware re. our own ability to live with uncertainty and risk. There are many things health care providers can do for patients. However, the best available science meets patients who have very different priorities and thresholds towards risk. e.g. Some patients who have BRCA positive genes for breast cancer will elect for prophylactic mastectomy. Others may take a watch and wait approach and screen their breast with MRI. Both choices are supported in health care today.
Being educated to optimise our health and understand risk vs benefit will help create a healthier society. We increasingly see collaborations between health care and tech giants to make us more mindful of our health and wellness. This is an exciting evolving space.