Category: Healthcare Reform

The #1 Industry Secret to Fighting Off Aging & Disease

I find it interesting, and encouraging, that everywhere you turn, people are looking to find ways to make their life better.  After all, who can blame them? Everyone wants to enjoy their life.  Let’s face it, we all share a common desire to be happy–just ask any parent what they want for their kids!  Unfortunately, there are some things in life that can be waiting just around the corner that can get in the way of and disrupt our pursuit of happiness.  In fact, if you don’t know what I’m going to share with you in this article, there’s something that can, and typically will, get in the way of living your dreams. More specifically, if you’re not well prepared to fight off aging and disease, at some point in your life–and that age is getting younger and younger for most folks–these degenerative forces can impose serious limitations on your ability to live, love, laugh, and enjoy life.

So how do you know if you are prepared?  I like to tell my patients that when you’re taking steps to being stronger and wiser each and every year–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and immunologically–it’s only natural to have the energy, vitality, enthusiasm, and Immune Power you need to create balance and abundance in all areas of your life, and to fend off the forces of aging and disease.  Unfortunately, this is an ideal that has become lost in the shuffle of our fast-paced, high-tech, high-stress lifestyles.  As we get older, our lives are no longer being defined by strength and wisdom.  For most folks, age brings all sorts of health complications that get in the way of our ability to recreate, play, love, support our family, serve our community, and further our cause.  Fatigue sets in, the mind slows down, the body starts to break down, and eventually long-term illness–such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s–catches up with 80% of our population by the time we retire.

Today I want to help clarify how you can go through life without having to suffer from these kinds of illnesses and long-term diseases that most people have to face.  It’s important to realize that you don’t have to become another one of these statistics; you don’t have to turn your long-term health and happiness over to the forces of aging and disease. You can take steps, starting today, to make sure that you are a vibrant, passionate, whole, Well-Being–throughout your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond!  In order to do so, however, you need to be prepared.  It’s important to be clear on the faculties and resources you need to have in place to grow older without illness.  With that in mind, let’s take a moment and reflect on the following question.

  • What is the single most important ally you need to have on your side to protect the long-term wellbeing of you and your loved ones?

a.       Is it having a good insurance plan?

b.      Is it having access to the best doctors, medicine, and diagnostic technologies?

c.       Is it you, your lifestyle choices, and your ability to create a powerful wellness plan?

While all of these certainly play an important role, the idea behind this question is to get you thinking about who and what plays the primary role in protecting you from the long-term illness and disease that most people have to face.  Is it your doctors?  Is it your insurance plan?  Could it possibly be you?  Let’s take a closer look at the different options.

Your Doctors and Traditional Medicine

You can’t underestimate the value of having access to the best medical doctors.  For example, whenever you get sick or have a medical emergency, your medical doctors are well trained to make sure that you are taken care of–usually by providing means of intervention such as drugs and surgery.  For this reason, sometimes I like to refer to Traditional Medicine as Intervention Medicine.  Intervention Medicine and our advanced medical technologies, surgical procedures, and miracle prescription drugs, I’m proud to say, are very effective when it comes to urgent / acute care, treating infectious disease, and diagnosing illness.  For example, you break your arm and need to go the emergency room, you’re experiencing chest pain and need to know if it’s something more serious, or you develop an infection and need to have it treated.  Whenever a medical emergency arises, you can rest assured that you will get the help that you need.  As valuable a role as Intervention Medicine plays in all of our lives, relying solely on our doctors to keep us well is an incomplete approach to protecting our long-term wellbeing.  As we’ll discuss in more detail in this article, this strategy isn’t very effective when it comes to:

1.       Empowering individuals to prevent illness to begin with, and

2.       Treating chronic or degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and type II diabetes

With this in mind, one of the main points I want to share with you today is we’re not meant to rely on Traditional Medicine for our health–only for giving us medical support when we are sick.  Said another way, our traditional medical doctors aren’t necessarily there to teach us how to be well and prevent being sick to begin with; they’re trained to take action once disease or markers for disease have already presented themselves.  In this way, I like to think of Traditional and Intervention Medicine as a means of disease-care rather than a means of health-care.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not trying to minimize the value of medical doctors.  As we’ve discussed, it’s obviously invaluable to have access to the best disease-care possible if you or one of your family members ever faces a serious health challenge.  This is one of the reasons our government’s current healthcare reform policies are primarily focused on improving both the affordability and the accessibility of this kind of disease-care.

The problem is, as we’ve prioritized disease-care as the central focus of our healthcare delivery model, we’ve started to rely on disease-care for our health–a function it was never intended to do.  To put this in perspective, relying on a system of disease-care for our health is the equivalent of relying on our military to balance our fiscal budget; or looking to your tax accountant to redesign your website.  It just doesn’t work!  Our military is there to defend our freedom, not to work on public policy.  Your tax accountant is there to ensure you are correctly filing your taxes, not to work on rebranding your internet business.  In the same way, Intervention Medicine is there to help us when we’re sick, but it can’t be relied upon to keep us healthy in the first place.  It can’t be relied upon to fight off the forces of aging and disease.

In other words, as we’ve dedicated our energy to improving our model for disease-care, we’ve lost sight of the importance of having a health-care plan in place that works proactively to prevent disease and keep us vibrant, energetic, youthful, and well.  As we’ve immersed ourselves in a world of high-tech diagnostic technologies, advanced surgical procedures, and new pharmaceutical drugs, we’ve lost touch with the non-drug, non-surgical, low-tech, day-to-day care that keeps us well to begin with.  In this article I’m going to make the case that a low-tech, day-to-day wellness plan is by far and away the most important thing you can do for your long-term wellbeing.  Even though all the attention of our current healthcare reform focuses on the quality, accessibility, and affordability of disease-care, I’d like you to consider that the steps that you and I and our loved ones take to prevent illness to begin with are the biggest assets we have in protecting our long-term health.  Said another way, I’d like you to consider a healthcare strategy for you and your loved ones that prioritizes the merits of Prevention over Intervention; a healthcare model that, first and foremost, relies on the principles of Preventive Medicine to keep us well and turns to Intervention Medicine for support when we’re ill.  Let’s take a closer look.

Prevention or Intervention?

Were I to ask 100 patients whether they would prefer Prevention or Intervention, all 100 of them would say they would have preferred to prevent the complication to begin with if they had the opportunity.  Who wouldn’t?  Think about it for a moment.  Would you prefer Prevention or Intervention (drugs & surgery) when it comes to the health and wellbeing of you and your loved ones? Fortunately, whether we realize it or not, we typically have a choice in the matter.  Interestingly enough, the vast majority of health complications can in fact be prevented–whether it’s upper respiratory infections, ongoing indigestion, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or chronic illness such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.  How so?  Through a simple wellness plan!  In other words, when you eat right, exercise regularly, find effective means for managing stress, and develop your immune system’s infinite potential to ward off disease, the overwhelming majority of health complications can be prevented!

Unfortunately, due to a lack of wellness education within our current healthcare delivery model, most folks aren’t aware of the steps they need to take to develop their Immune Power and prevent illness.  As a result, we end up with a disease-care model that only offers Intervention when symptomatic disease arises, and our opportunity to choose prevention is lost in the process.

To make matters worse, when it comes to chronic illness–such as cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes–once symptoms arise it’s oftentimes too late.  You see, drugs, surgery, and Intervention Medicine have limited effectiveness when it comes to treating chronic and degenerative disease.  The symptoms of these degenerative illnesses can be managed in some cases, and modern medicine can often prolong life in a morbid or chronically ill state, but the underlying conditions are very difficult to cure through Intervention Medicine.  While there are certainly exceptions, once chronic illness becomes symptomatic, the great majority of cases go on to significantly undermine the quality of the patient’s life.  They start imposing serious restrictions and limitations on our pursuit of happiness.  This has become particularly problematic given that 4 out of 5 Americans are diagnosed with at least one chronic illness by the time they retire, the average American has 2 to 3 chronic illnesses by the time they are 65, and bodily decay and markers for long-term disease are starting to show up in our 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

That’s why developing a wellness plan is so important.  Without some simple wellness planning, it’s unlikely that we can protect the long-term wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones from the epidemic of chronic illness and degenerative disease.  Without a commitment to some basic, low-tech, non-drug, non-surgery, day-to-day care, we leave our wellbeing exposed and vulnerable to the forces of aging and disease.  In the process, we narrow our healthcare options to the limitations of Intervention Medicine, and are deprived of our opportunity to prevent illness to begin with.

What About Insurance Companies?

So far we’ve talked about the role that our doctors, drugs, and advanced medical technologies play in protecting our long-term wellbeing.  What about insurance companies?  How do they figure into the equation?  Insurance companies are essentially there to help fund disease-care.  Whenever you are sick or in need of a medical emergency, it’s important to have an insurance policy in place to help pay for the care you are receiving.  In other words, having an insurance plan and having access to the best disease-care possible go hand in hand.  What a lot of folks don’t necessarily think about, however, is when they’re buying their insurance policy, they’re not really buying health insurance.  So what are they buying?  They’re buying disease insurance!  In fact, true health insurance can’t be bought at all!  Fortunately, even though it may not be for sale, health insurance is still available to each and every one of us.  What exactly do I mean by that?  When you empower your immune system with a positive mental attitude, nutrient-rich foods, the habits of happiness, and physical fitness, you’re creating the only true form of health insurance available on the market–a powerful wellness plan!

In Summary

At the beginning of this article we wanted to come to terms with who and what plays the primary role in protecting your long-term wellbeing, so you don’t have to turn your health and happiness over to the forces of aging and disease.  Now let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far.  Our disease-care system, as it is currently structured, is not set up to help you prevent long-term illness.  In other words, our doctors and insurance companies, for the most part, are designed to action once disease or markers for disease are detectable.  They’re not necessarily there to provide us with the health-care resources we need to prevent the chronic and degenerative disease that has become epidemic in our society today.  While this is cause for concern, there’s a lot we can do to resolve this predicament.  Fortunately, as we’ve discussed, the great majority of disease and chronic illness can in fact be prevented.  How do you go about doing that? By building Immune Power; by taking some simple steps on a daily basis to create nutritional, emotional, metabolic, and immunological balance.

Does that mean that doctors and insurance plans aren’t important?  Absolutely not!  But it’s important to recognize that they don’t play the primary role in regulating your long-term health.  They need to be viewed as a support system.  At the end of the day, it’s up to each and every one of us to take responsibility for our health and be the primary line of defense when it comes to our wellbeing.  In other words, in order to ensure the best possible health-care, we all need to build a powerful immune system and develop our natural ability to fight off aging and disease.  We can then look to our traditional medical doctors and Intervention Medicine for support, if and when we are ever in need of disease-care.

That means that we all need to take a more proactive role in creating self-enriching living habits that build-up, protect, and sustain our health and happiness.  We need to embrace the principles of Preventive Medicine and the low-tech, low-cost, non-drug, non-surgical, non-invasive, day-to-day care that we can all incorporate into our lives to stay well.  What happens when we get into trouble?  In those instances, we have our doctors and insurance plans to support us through any health challenges we may be facing.  That is the essence of a truly integrated healthcare delivery model.  As individuals we are educated and empowered with a wellness plan that builds our Immune Power and enables us to take primary responsibility for our wellbeing; meanwhile, our doctors, insurance plan, drugs and surgery are there as a back-up system or a secondary line of a defense.

Said another way, the #1 industry secret in fighting off the forces of aging and disease is the steps we take every day to build, protect, and fortify the infinite potential of our immune system–our body’s built in mechanism for self-governing, self-repairing, self-rejuvenating, and fighting off disease. Our safety net, however, is making sure we have access to the best disease-care possible if a health challenge happens to arise.  Together, working side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, we can have the health-care and disease-care resources we need to protect the long-term wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones.  With that in place, we can make a newfound commitment to growing stronger and wiser-as individuals, as a healthcare delivery system, and as a society.

Do you have a wellness plan in place to build your Immune Power and secure the long-term health of you and your loved ones?  Interested in getting started?  Let us know how we can help!

Health Care Reform: Integrating Traditional Medicine with Preventive Medicine is the Solution

Is there a way to bring down the costs of healthcare while improving the quality of care? Is Integrative Medicine the solution to our healthcare crisis?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Meltzer discusses in this excerpt from an interview on Life in California. To see the rest of the excerpts, take a look at the following related videos.

“Noel Horwin: Dr. Meltzer it looks like you’re really focusing in on the whole idea of self-empowerment, and that’s where the first line of self-defense really starts. Does that mean you’re nullifying the value of traditional medicine?

Dr. Meltzer: You know I have great respect for traditional medicine, I mean I’m a medical doctor. I believe in traditional medicine and many parts of it. First of all, traditional medicine as far as crisis intervention, as far as emergency medicine is concerned, as far as pain management and serious infections—in other words, acute illnesses—traditional medicine is fantastic. If you ever have a loved one or someone in your family that’s ill, and they’re in pain or they’re really sick, let’s face it. We want to get to the hospital. So you know traditional medicine has some huge assets, tremendous help technologically, pharmacologically; in helping people that have acute illnesses. But see, the difficulty is it only represents ten, fifteen percent of medicine. See, the future of medicine is integrative medicine. Where you take traditional medicine, and preventive medicine and you work together. For example, preventive medicine is your first line of defense. You empower individuals to be well and stay well. You teach them the fundamentals of self-awareness, self-responsibility, self-accountability, balanced living, good eating, healthy exercise, healthy, happy relationships. You know, you try to create a balanced lifestyle. That’s your first line of defense! Now, if for whatever reason you incur an illness and you have a problem, that’s what the hospitals and doctors are for, you see. They’re the backup system but they’re not the first line of defense. I have tremendous respect for traditional medicine, as a matter of fact as a primary care doctor, a lot of what I know and a lot of what I do comes from my knowledge of traditional medicine. But I’m very much aware of its limitations. Its limitations are in treating chronic illness, in other words it doesn’t cure chronic illness, it doesn’t prevent chronic illness—it manages chronic illness. I don’t want to manage chronic illness, I don’t want to assume that chronic illness is inevitable—there are a certain amounts of chronic illnesses that can be prevented. I believe the great majority can be prevented. For example, just imagine as Americans we weren’t overweight and we quit smoking- just a few little things! Our health would improve tremendously. Forget exercise, just obesity and cigarette smoking. So you know there’s a lot of things that people can do to get healthy, but the first line of defense is preventive medicine. What that does is empowers the patient, it empowers the primary care doctor to look out for wellness. In other words, as so many of my colleagues as you see them, you see an orthopedic doctor or you see an ophthalmologist and you’re overweight or depressed—they’re not going to deal with it, they’re passive about it. Preventive medicine gets passionate about burnout, and gets passionate about teaching you how to be well. So I think working together is key. Traditional medicine is super important—you can’t have health care or disease care delivery system without traditional medicine. But where’s the prevention, where’s preventive medicine? As I said, if you hold up the graph, if you look at President Obama’s policy here to solve the health care crisis, and in this one little corner is preventive medicine—no, preventive medicine is huge. It ought to be at least two thirds of what’s going on, and then perhaps one third towards traditional medicine. If we can keep people well and healthy and happy, we’re going to prevent a lot of chronic illness. So I think it’s crucial to integrate and work together. Traditional medicine and preventive medicine: side by side, hand by hand, shoulder to shoulder, working together under what I call integrative medicine—giving people the best of both worlds. Teach them how to be well, educate them on what it takes to be well and stay well, and then those folks who face difficulties have traditional care. I think that’s a wonderful system.

Noel:Thirty years ago, in San Diego Magazine you were quoted saying that the main responsibility of the primary care physician is to zero in on preventive medicine, to educate his patient, or her patient to preventive medicine. How are we doing thirty years later?

Dr. Meltzer: We’re close, we’re close you know. I think what’s going to happen is this: I think that if the primary care physician can expand his role to be an educator, a facilitator, a guide, to help folks get on the wellness program, to introduce concepts of self-awareness, nutrition, fitness, meditation, stress-management—in other words, I think that for example let’s say someone comes into your office with high blood pressure or something like that, their primary care physician can guide people in behavior modification and making different lifestyle choices. So I think that it’s a huge way, I think it’s a great way to bring the integrative processes together. The primary care doctors are basically out there working with their clientele to keep them well, and educate them, and facilitate their wellness process—those folks that do come down with illnesses, that’s where our traditional/medical team is available, and of course for acute illness we have a fantastic traditional medical team in emergency medicine and crisis medicine and things to that nature.

Noel:You have covered a wide array of subject matter regarding these issues, any final thoughts for us?

Dr. Meltzer: The only final thought is this: we have a common goal. I think the common goal in our society right now is improved health care, to cut down the cost of health care, improve the quality of health care and improve the quality of our lives. Now here’s what the American public has to understand, the current approach to health care reform in President Obama’s program right now is misleading. It will not address the problem, it will not solve the healthcare crisis. Until we address the primary cause of the healthcare crisis which is chronic illness, until we switch over to having a healthcare system, as well as a disease-care system, we’re not going to solve the problem. The future is preventive medicine—empowering people, empowering the individual, not empowering the disease. Empowering individuals to be well, empowering people to stay well, empowering families to work together to stay well, to educate people on the tools and the resources of being well. That’s the future, that’s the way to prevent disease, that’s the way to solve the healthcare crisis in our country today.

Noel:Dr. Meltzer thank you so much for being our guest, you’ve given us some very refreshing insight.

Dr. Meltzer: Thanks very much Noel it’s been a pleasure to be here.

Noel:Thank you for being our guest.”

Implementing True Healthcare Reform: Empowering the Individual vs. Empowering Disease

Is our healthcare system empowering you to be well or is it empowering disease? Do we have a true healthcare delivery system or is it just a disease care system? Are there ways that we, as individuals, can play a more expanded role in our wellness process?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Meltzer discusses in this excerpt from Life in California.

This is the second of 3 excerpts from Dr. Meltzer’s interview on Life in California. To see the rest of the excerpts, take a look at the following related videos.

“Noel Horwin: Dr. Meltzer you’ve said now that the root cause of this whole major health crisis is chronic disease, and that it represents 75% of the medical costs in this country. And for the most part, this chronic disease can be prevented.

Dr Meltzer: That’s correct.

Noel: If attacking chronic disease is not currently a centerpiece in health care reform, how do we get started?

Dr. Meltzer: There are things we can do both individually, and collectively. It all begins with the individual. Health care reform begins with the individual. And how does that work? We need to make health a value, that’s right—we need to make health a value. Health is precious. Just like we have freedom as a value, we have justice as a value, one nation under God with liberty and justice for all—we need to extend that to being healthy. Wherever you go; talk to anyone who’s an expectant mother, what kind of baby do you want? “I want a healthy baby.” You see, we have to take pride in our health. We must make health a value to really make health care an effective reform. Remember what John F. Kennedy once said, “do not ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” And what we can do for our country right now, is individually for ourselves and our families, we can have an intention to be healthy and well. Collectively, we have a defining moment in our history, it comes down to a simple choice. We can either choose a healthcare system that empowers individuals, or a disease-care system that empowers disease. Currently we have a disease-care system. What does that mean? Well, it means that we don’t teach people how to be well, but we try to maximize the efficiency of treating disease and managing illness. It’s not preventing disease, it’s treating disease. In other words, in our disease-care system right now, it’s assumed that disease is inevitable. Well what I’m hear to share with you is that disease is not inevitable. Yes, getting older is inevitable, death is inevitable. But chronic disease is not inevitable—there is a lot as an individual that people can do to prevent disease. You know the body is engineered to be well, and we all know folks in their seventies, eighties and nineties, that live active lives—mentally and physically. So the key is to empower individuals with a health care delivery system, and not to empower disease with a disease-care system, which we currently have. It’s time for a shift. It’s time for a new way of thinking, a time for new paradigm. It’s time to switch from disease-care to a true system of health care that teaches people how to be well. We need to empower the individual, empower the patient, empower the American public, empower individuals with the tools and the resources to be well. You see, the key is preventive medicine. Preventive medicine is the solution. Now let’s take a look at the current administration’s solution (pulls out chart)—this is their solution. One of these fifty squares has preventive medicine, the rest of this program is adjunctive. It’s like the dessert, it’s not the entrée. Preventive medicine is the key. What we have to do is educate people about how to be well, about better living habits, better thinking habits, more sound eating habits, more positive fitness habits, learning how to manage stress—that’s what we have to do to prevent disease. Individuals have to learn how to be accountable, self-responsibility is the key. Health care reform without self-responsibility is not health care reform at all. So here’s my thought: why don’t we become the first nation that not only believes in health, but makes true health care a policy; true health care becomes our way of life. We work together individually and collectively to be well—a health care system based on empowerment, not a disease-care system based on entitlement. We can be the first country to have true health care that just becomes an extension of our values, an extension of what we believe.

Noel: So, Dr. Meltzer, if we understand you correctly, what you’re saying now is that we cannot turn over the responsibility of health care reform to pharmaceuticals, to medical corporations, to the government, to businesses—it all starts with the individual. Is that correct?

Dr. Meltzer: That’s correct. I’m saying that we have to turn to ourselves for wellness. Not to turn to insurance companies, or pharmaceuticals or physicians for our wellness. We have to be responsible to create wellness for ourselves, that’s correct.

Noel: I believe that what you’re saying now is that unless we educate people and give them the tools to learn the insights for healthy living habits, this crisis will just continue to escalate. So how would you implement a health care system that has as a cardinal aspect to it, for people to have wellness in themselves?

Dr. Meltzer: You know, there are four fundamentals to wellness that we teach at our institute, the Meltzer Wellness Institute. And for those of you that are interested, you can go to maketimeforwellness.com and check it out. But here they are, it’s like four legs of a chair; very simple. All legs are strong, the chair is strong. Number one, self-awareness: what role you play in your life health, what role you play in your health care—your choices, your lifestyle decisions, your eating habits, your thinking habits, your activity habits. So, it’s very important that folks understand that disease is not inevitable; aging might be inevitable, but disease isn’t. So self-awareness, self-responsibility, self-accountability, that’s number one. The second leg of the chair is nutrition. Nutrition 101; what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, how to combine your foods, what supplements to take—very important factors because nutritional fuel is crucial to well-being, the cornerstone of preventive medicine. Number three is exercise. Everybody knows that exercise is good for us, so we all need some type of regular exercise routine. And number four is stress—how to manage stress. We need to learn how to manage stress effectively, how to reduce stress. Those are the four legs of the chair. Everybody, every American, every teenager, everybody in the United States can improve their health by looking at these four components. Number one self-awareness, number two nutrition, number three exercise, and number four stress management.”

Healthcare Reform Misleading— Preventive Medicine, The Wave of the Future

Do you know what accounts for 75% of the healthcare dollars spent each year? Would you be surprised to know that the vast majority of these costs can be prevented?

In this excerpt from Life in California, Dr. Meltzer was invited on as a guest to discuss the root cause of our healthcare crisis in American, how the current healthcare reform policy is not addressing it, and why the future success of our healthcare delivery system is going to depend on our ability as individuals and as a society to adopt the basic principles of Preventive Medicine.

This is the first of 3 excerpts from Dr. Meltzer’s interview on Life in California. To see the rest of the excerpts, take a look at the following related videos:

“Hi everyone my name is Noel Horwin and welcome to Life in California. Today we are going to be discussing a great issue before all of us, healthcare reform in America. It has impacted all of us, our families, our government, our businesses, our school systems, etc., etc., etc. The question is, do we have a solution? Our guest today, Dr. Barnet Meltzer believes that there is. Dr. Barnet Meltzer is a nationally renowned expert in preventive medicine, and integrative medicine. He has been a primary care physician for 40 years, board-certified in the state of California. And he has some distinctive views about this entire issue. With that being said, welcome Dr. Barnet Meltzer.

Dr. Meltzer: Noel, thank you very much, my pleasure.

Noel: Doctor, could you give us your take on the healthcare reform crisis in America?

Dr. Meltzer: Well Noel let me say that it’s great to be here, always a pleasure to be on your show. And you know, the fact of the matter is we do have a crisis right now, one time it was a predicament and now it’s a crisis. And, to get it simplified for your listeners the health care crisis comes down to two very simple issues. The first is the cost of health care, and the second is the quality of health care. Here’s what my concern is, the cost of health care is spiraling upward, it’s trending upwards. And at the same time the cost of healthcare is going up, the quality of our health is going down. We have more childhood obesity, we have more adult obesity, and why at my practice over the last ten to twenty years I see more folks overweight, stressed out and burnt out than ever. So that’s my concern, that’s why I think it’s a crisis. And at the very same time, what’s interesting is that we have the best political minds working 24/7 around the clock to see what they can do about solving this healthcare crisis. I was interested in hearing President Obama’s comments, when he said that he wasn’t the first president to take on healthcare reform, but he hopes he’ll be the last.

Noel: How does the current health care reform measure up?

Dr. Meltzer: We all want the same. In other words we all want affordability, meaning we want to have health care costs to come down, we want to have adequacy, we want to upgrade the quality of healthcare, and we want to have availability, accessibility. We would like to have all Americans have availability to health care. That’s the good news. In other words, there’s the good news and the bad news. The good news is that President Obama has the right objectives and the right goals. The bad news is this, the current approach to healthcare reform, President Obama’s program right now is misleading. It will not address the problem, it will not solve the healthcare crisis. In other words, restructuring insurance companies won’t solve the problem, having a public health option won’t solve the problem, having a new insurance exchange where people that have small businesses and individuals that don’t have insurance would get new insurance is not going to solve the problem. Cutting back on the cost of drugs is not going to solve the problem, improving hospital care is not going to solve the problem, and reducing physician’s fees is not going to solve the problem. Now these are important measures, but they’re not going to solve the problem. The point is, that unless we address the root cause of this inflationary stress in terms of health care costs and quality of care, if we don’t address the root cause, we’re not going to solve the problem. In other words, to me, the President’s approach is downstream and not upstream. It reminds me that, for example the approach you would take to having wounded bodies floating down the river. The President and his policies are concerned about how to take care of the wounded bodies down the river, but they’re not figuring out upstream, how the bodies got into the river. In other words, the current policy’s approach is reactive, not proactive. It’s downstream, not upstream and in fact it’s micromanaging, not looking at the big picture. The big picture to solve health care reform—what the people need to know, is that unless we address the root cause of healthcare problem, it’s not going to get solved.

Noel: Dr. Meltzer, what is the root cause of the health care crisis in America and what is the solution?

Dr. Meltzer: Noel, I’m going to start with the solution. The solution is preventive medicine, the wave of the future. You know, I have a motto I share with my patients, a kind of theme we talk about that helps them understand how this is going to work. And here’s the motto: the least causing illness—and once you understand this you’ll really get where I’m coming from— the least causing illness is the one that never occurs. What happens in our society is that, unfortunately 4 out of every 5 Americans, 65 or older are suffering with one form or another of a chronic illness. It could be arthritis, it could be diabetes, it could be heart disease, it could be stroke, it could be high blood pressure, it could be Parkinson’s, it could be Alzheimer’s, it could be metastatic cancer—but the reason we’re having a health care crisis in terms of cost is because every year some 1.5 trillion now is being spent on chronic illness; because 75% of our health care dollars goes to paying for chronic illness. Now, the truth is, a majority of these chronic illnesses can be prevented. In other words, we have scientific evidence and evidence-based research, empirical evidence from years of my practice that we’ve observed that people’s lifestyles, their habits, their choices, have a huge impact on their health. For example, someone who smokes and doesn’t exercise and overeats is unlikely to maintain good health. So we know there’s a connection between lifestyle choices and wellbeing, and we want to make sure that individuals are empowered to do something about this. But the answer is preventive medicine, and the cause of the problem is the cost of chronic illness.

Noel: Dr. Meltzer, you’ve said now that the root cause of this whole major health crisis is chronic disease, and that it represents 75% of the medical costs of this country. And for the most part, this chronic disease can be prevented.

Dr. Meltzer: That’s correct. And to make matters worse, we have an aging population. It’s estimated that over the next twenty years, the number of individuals over 65 will increase by 50%, so we’re going to have an increase in chronic illness. So this is my concern, the President and myself, and all of those concerned are looking for long-term solutions. But what are we doing about the primary cause, which is the escalation of chronic illness and the cost of chronic illness?

Noel: So Dr. Meltzer, if I understand you correctly, any healthcare reform that does not include, as a centerpiece, taking care of the chronic disease in this country, is misguided, and will not be a sustainable solution for healthcare reform?

Dr. Meltzer: That’s correct. We could throw everything else out, by focusing our attention, by putting our nation’s efforts on preventing chronic illness—a great majority of which can be prevented, we would be making a huge impact in health care costs. I’m not talking decreasing costs by 1%, I’m not talking 2%, I’m not talking 3%, I’m talking 30%, 40%, 50%. Let me give you some very attainable goals. For example, let’s say that instead of having two out of every three Americans overweight, we just had one out of three overweight. And let’s say for example, instead of having four out of five Americans age 65 or older suffering with a chronic illness, will only have two out of every five Americans suffering with chronic illnesses. We could save something like 800 billion dollars a year! And the future is preventive medicine! Empowering people, empowering the individual. Not empowering disease; empowering individuals to be well, empowering people to stay well, empowering families to work together to stay well, to educate people on the tools and the resources to being well. That’s the future, that’s the way to prevent disease, that’s the way to solve the health care crisis in our country, today.”