The most important verb in our health crisis


There was great commentary on my last post. Thank you all. I learned a lot from your words. This is how it’s supposed to work here.

One comment in particular has stuck with me. It concerned the formation of a how-to be-healthy booklet. An information manual, if you will.

I’ve thought about this many times before. Bookstores have entire sections of self-help books. There are manuals on healthy cooking, healthy living, healthy this and healthy that.

What I was thinking about is something simpler, more to the core of the current crisis in health.


I looked up the verb, “to choose.” (I do this a lot more than I used to. It helps me understand things.) What I found struck me:

1. pick out or select (someone or something) as being the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives:
2. decide on a course of action, typically after rejecting alternatives.

This is it. I think it’s all about choosing. To be clear, I’m not placing the burden of choice on just patients. It’s everyone, from individuals, to doctors, to medical organizations and society as a whole. Together, there has to be a selection. We have to choose health.

On an individual (patients) level, one has to choose the healthy way. This is not complicated. The table of health has only four legs: good movement, good nutrition, good sleep and good attitudes. Every literate human in the Western world knows the basics. They just have to choose.

Doctors also have to choose. We have to make a selection. Do we select the easy course, which is to ignore the elephant in the room and keep making marginal changes in medicines, perform procedures and surgery? Do we choose to care enough to address the root cause of disease? In my case, do I ablate AF in a patient who has AF solely because he won’t stop the nighttime cocktails, slow his work schedule, go to bed at a reasonable hour and use his sleep apnea apparatus? Does the vascular surgeon keep bypassing blocked blood vessels in the patient who keeps smoking? Do we care enough to choose to engage the root cause of this crisis?

Educators have really important choices to make. For me at least, it’s a true human tragedy when children spoil what nature gifts them: their flawless health and beautiful bodies. Those who have dedicated their life to the well being of children must reject the path we are on, and select a healthier course. A commenter made reference to eliminating physical education from schools. It’s risky to use metaphors, but is that ridiculous choice not a metaphor for the entire health crisis of this nation?

And finally, Society must choose. The choices we have made here are highlighted when one gets off a plane from Europe. The people of the United States of America have made an obvious choice about their health. If we care about our vitality, there must soon be another selection. Anything more complicated than a simple choice obfuscates the problem. Americans must decide what it will be. Will we continue on the path we are on, or will someday, society wake up and decide that healthy is normal?

To choose.

Selection of a path.

Rejection of an alternative.

It’s not about restricting biggie drinks, closing fast food restaurants or stopping the addition of sugar to bread. It’s about making simple choices.

Sorry. This is one of the many reasons why I am just a doctor and not a famous self-help author.


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