Be(A)ware of Awareness

As Pink Ribbon Season dwindles to a close, one more commentary on the disconnect between “awareness” and real prevention (via Orthomolecular News):

Awareness? What Awareness?

By Ralph Campbell, MD

October 11, 2013

beawareRecently, our local paper promoted a 3K walk/run for “a cure for heart disease,” with photos of participants of all sizes and shapes. For enjoying the camaraderie and the feeling of sacrifice for a good cause, the participants paid a $25 entry fee that went to the American Heart Association (AHA) to promote awareness.

According to the AHA website they want to increase public awareness of their purpose and actions. “Our mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” They fund “innovative” research, fight for stronger public health policies, provide “lifesaving tools” (funding for diagnostic imaging techniques) and information “to save and improve lives.” They promote their idea of “heart healthy” foods and other prevention advice: Don’t smoke, be physically active, maintain a healthy weight, control blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.

How many times have we heard the same advice from other “health” organizations? And how aware can one get about these canned themes?

Do not let either the medical authorities or the politicians mislead you. Find out what the facts are, and make your own decisions about how to live a happy life and how to work for a better world. – Linus Pauling

The National Breast Cancer Foundation’s operation is along similar lines. They desire to “help women around the world by educating them about breast cancer and the importance of early detection and to provide mammograms for those in need.” There is little presentation of means of staying healthy but lots of emphasis on their version of preventive medicine – mainly, early detection with mammograms that they make available to all, rich or poor. Awareness is accented by making October breast cancer awareness month. If you are a NFL football fan, you may have already noticed football players sporting pink wrist bands, socks, gloves, and pink tails. The pink goes beautifully with the Miami Dolphins aqua uniforms. Likewise, The American Diabetes Association works along similar lines with November their awareness month.

We should ask: Awareness of what? Evidently, the aim of these organizations is to increase awareness of the ways of the medical industry, which includes diagnostic tests, prescribed medications and regular doctor visits so that things like blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar levels can be monitored. Their admonitions like “eat a healthy diet” and “exercise regularly” seem rather vague. Highly sophisticated diagnostic technology is emphasized as necessary for detection of small problems that may become big.

Health “Charities” are Biased

However, these organizations do not increase awareness of true preventive medicine, obtained through good nutrition and optimal doses of supplements. They misjudge the public. Many people understand the basics of health and the drawbacks to blindly following the medical or pharmaceutical protocol. They know that the basis of many diseases is inadequate function of the immune system, in large part due to poor nutrition. They could blindly follow the advice to “eat your fruits and vegetables” but would rather learn more about why. Discerning people, searching for ways to achieve and maintain good health, are puzzled by the push for drugs that have side effects ranging from moderate to severe. To be most effective, these large public medical organizations should turn their awareness campaigns topsy-turvy, to increase awareness of the healthy side of their story.

“What use do you make of your physician?” said the king to Molière one day. “We chat together, sire; he gives me his prescriptions; I never follow them, and so I get well.” – Jules-Antoine Taschereau, Histoire de la Vie et des Overages de Molière

I am a firm believer that bits of information followed blindly are rarely understood. A basic understanding is needed of “why.” All health organizations need nutrition 101 made foremost in their awareness campaigns. This is certainly true for the American Diabetes Association, for it is currently finding drawbacks to glucose-lowering medicines. The AHA presents information on its “heart healthy” foods, but its message seems confused. They have embraced the health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, yet they still emphasize that fats (the all-inclusive word) are bad. Fast food producers pay close attention to what are considered “heart healthy” foods, with little attention paid to providing robust amounts of essential nutrients. The menu offerings appear to change according to what could prove to be financially rewarding, irrespective of what the public wants or needs.

A recent fast food ad promotes French fries with a lower fat content. But the TV image, showing the usual sliced potatoes in boiling oil, makes me doubt that the AHA desires to fully educate the fast-food industry or the public. Nor do they seem willing to disclose how one actually achieves making a healthier French fry.

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Additional Recommended Reading

Image by Quinn Dombrowski, via Flickr

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A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry
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