By Professor Ian Brighthope
M.D., M.B.B.S., D.Ag.Sci, FACNEM, FACHM
As it appears in Food matters
Here is my version of a very worn modern parable.
A surgeon runs by a fast flowing river when he hears the cry of a man drowning. The surgeon submerges, puts his arms around the victim, takes him to the ground and resuscitates him. He resumes his trot, only to see another man drowning. Drag the second man and make him breathe. The surgeon jogs again, but in a short time he meets another man who is drowning and another.
In search of help, call a practitioner of complementary medicine, who is nearby, absorbed in his thoughts. The surgeon calls him to go after a suffocating victim while attending to the other. When the complementary medicine practitioner is slow to respond, the surgeon shouts, "Why are not you doing anything?"
The complementary practitioner finally responds: "I'm doing something. I'm trying desperately to find out who is pulling all these people into the river. "
This story illustrates one of the ongoing dilemmas in our current health system, a system so desperately occupied in the treatment of pathological endpoints of the disease, that more and more people are seeking medical attention, waiting in beds. the hospitals, queue for surgical interventions, have little hope of contemplating what brought these people there in the first place.
This does not mean that such efforts are necessarily useless, or that a considerable amount of good is not being achieved in the short term. However, the system is so preoccupied with what sociologist John McKinlay has called "top-down efforts": "shallow categorical tweaks in response to almost perennial changes from one health problem to another," which has little chance of actually solving anything. 
The current system is so busy fishing people out of the river, that they have little time to contemplate the causes, implement prevention or "medicine upstream".
I am speaking in extreme terms here, of course, there are many conventional doctors who implement prevention, lifestyle reforms, etc., but mainly they are the complementary health professionals who are achieving these ends, even though they are not receiving recognition. they deserve, especially from surgeons.
Things are certainly changing, however, the situation remains, in the best of cases, a progression of "two steps forward, one step backwards". Against the armamentarium of the big pharmaceutical companies, nutritional supplements are often seen as a novel element, something to be played but that should not be taken so seriously. Patients deserve "something that really works", as opposed to a false mix of vitamins and minerals, things that we should get from our diet anyway. However, conservative doctors are taking note.
However, as Dr. Andrew Weil, an enthusiastic advocate of nutritional supplements, has suggested, this is a medical system that is on the verge of collapse anyway. He trusts, like many of us, that when the collapse finally occurs, a new integrating medical model will emerge. An "ascending" model, which encourages people to "express ownership of their own health" rather than leaving it to others, waiting for it to be saved by medications and surgeons and the hospital system, and to be resurrected when they submit
1. B. McKinlay, J., A case to refocus upwards: the political economy of the disease. 3rd ed. ed. Patients, doctors and diseases: a reference book on behavioral science and health.
ed. E.G. Jaco 1979, New York: Free Press; London: Collier-Macmillan. xiv, 479 p.
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