Throughout the history of conventional Western medicine much effort has been expended on diseases caused by micro-organisms. We have advanced a great in the identification and control of these diseases which helps you in better personal health management.
In general, the more advanced and sophisticated the society, the less its member are prey to the plagues and pestilences of earlier and more primitives times. Modern men and women in the West tend to be well nourished and to live in hygienic surrounding, with access to a range of useful drugs and health services when they are needed. Instead of having to combat the disease of poverty and dirt, many of us find that we are up against the so-called diseases of affluence. Unfortunately, pills are not the answer to conditions caused by faulty diet, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse and stress. All these things require active changes in some aspects of our lives, and it is much harder to make a change in our lives than it is just to take a pill. It is particularly hard when the change involves giving up something that brings immediate comfort and gratification for the promise of being healthier in the future, which is somewhat vague and abstract.
We have used such sayings as if they were magic charms; as if merely repeating them is sufficient – no further action needed. In the matter of health, prevention is surely acknowledged to be better than cure, but it has been much, much harder to implement. Somehow, messages about preventive medicine have been less than convincing. Often, people tend to shy away from taking responsibility for their own health and take refuge in a primitive fatalism – ‘when your number comes up, that’s it ‘you’ve got to die of something’. Attempts to use the power of statistics have also, on the whole, been unfruitful.
We also seem to fear changing our old habits, such as our usual diet. To deprive ourselves of our habitual comforting foods is simple too hard. Perhaps for the generation which grew up during the deprivation of war such fear is too deep-rooted to be easily overcome. For all these reasons, and no doubt for many others, preventive medicine has been a slow starter.
One of the most challenging and difficult aspects of preventive medicine is that it puts much of the responsibility for health on to the patient. Many people have grown up with the idea that nearly all illness or disorder happens by mischance – from dental decay to lung disease, it’s all a question of bad luck. This sort of thinking fosters feelings of relative helplessness and it goes along with the idea that a person’s responsibility if they are ill is limited to carrying out the doctor’s instructions about the pills, and hoping that they work.
It is clear, however now that much more is known about the role of such things as diet, exercise habits and lifestyle in the onset and progression of many disorders, that the passive swallowing of medicines will, in these cases be seen as hardly adequate.