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The Socialisation of Medicine

The Socialisation of Medicine


In October of last year, one of the students I have been tutoring for a number of years graduated. This is a very proud moment for me that fills me with a massive amount of respect for that individual and their achievement. The demands of the course of study she has undertaken is not for the faint hearted.

When I think of all the students I have tutored over more than a decade, something stands out about each one of them. One of the things that grabbed my attention with respect to the recently graduated student was a question she answered in the first paper I marked for her. She put the idea forward that, to truly be holistic and gain health we needed to heal the society we lived in. I don't agree with this fully because I believe that our perception of events and situations has as much to do with the way they affect our health as the events themselves. None the less, I do believe there is still a massive amount of truth in that statement....certainly so much so that I have been pondering on it more and more. It has brought me to a realisation how badly and sadly we are failing as human beings. I feel at this stage of our existence we should be evolving into something higher.

One of the problems is we have institutionalised medicine, and in so doing institutionalised our perception of health. This has been done in a very aggressive and effective way. I know this because, as part of my holistic approach with patients, I have to spend a good amount of time countering this perception with regards to what health is?....what causes disease....? and what is the solution? The answer to these questions lies not in the experts who run the institutions but greatly within ourselves and the communities we live in....and within the conditions we collectively allow to exist, unchallenged, on a daily basis.

The primary cause of the bulk of diseases can be found within our very social fabric. It is for this reason that health care must be re-introduced back into the community and be made everyone's responsibility, to believe in and live a lifestyle that promotes health. To support and encourage each other in this process. This does not need to wait on government initiative to start but can take shape through community cooperation and organisation. In fact, it is far more likely to proceed at a pace if government is kept out of the process.

This is the socialisation, rather than the institutionalisation, of medicine

If we go way back in time to my early beginnings, training to be a herbalist, I can draw from Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At the top of that list is Air, Water and Food. These are the primary top three factors on that list needed to maintain life and health, yet all three are compromised to some degree within our present society,.

If we skip Air and Water for now, so as not to turn this into a major work, the nature of food alone, on so many levels, has become a source of great concern with respect to its impact on health.

Food additives, processed and denatured food, poor soil quality, herbicides and pesticides are all well known concerns. However, the role of food takes on other dimensions in our pursuit of health.

The preparation of food has, in many households, become a chore that needs to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. I am not unrealistic about the demands put on people's time...and there are evenings or days when you reach for a more simplistic solution to satisfy that need. But a simple option does not have to be an unhealthy option. This practice could be tempered by engaging more with food. We can bypass the nasty additives, in part, by growing and preparing our own food. This requires land, either in the form of having a decent sized garden or having access to an allotment. Sadly, with the massive surge of home building many of the new properties do not offer significant land to have some degree of control over the origins and nature of our food. I do not think this is an accident. Deny people the resources and they will be entirely dependent on what is offered to them to survive.

Part of this problem is fed by an ever growing population. Population is a factor that will have more and more impact on our quality of life and thus our health as time goes on. This needs to be put at the top of the political agenda and a number decided that will maintain as much freedom and life quality for humans, animals and plant life in this country. Personally, I think we have already gone well beyond that number, so our task would be looking at ways to see a natural reduction in our population.

An appreciation and a desire to engage in cooking and creating healthy meals needs to be part of the cornerstone of our primary education and onwards. As a culture we need to embrace the growing and making of good healthy food.

Last year I gave a talk to a WI group out in Shropshire. Prior to my talk they were conducting the tail end of their monthly meeting. I believe they were voting on a nationwide initiative to tackle loneliness. The WI is a massive network with the potential to do great good by bringing about change. Before I started my presentation I presumptively asked if they would consider tying this initiative into food by reinstating the community meal one or two times a week. My experience is, not only are many elderly people lonely but they are also dying too young from poor nutrition that often occurs when someone finds themselves on their own. Cooking for one and eating alone has no appeal. I believe it was Aristotle who long ago recognised this and promoted the idea of community meals where good food and good decision making would take place. Personally, heated discussions about policy, around the dinner table , sounds like a recipe for indigestion. However, creating a community meal, as was often seen through the church or at the village hall, would provide company and good nutrition for all those who participated. It would give them something to look forward to during the week...and improve their overall physical and mental health.

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