Saturday, August 8, 2009

Food, Inc. The Movie

I have never been one to shy away from the truths about our world. An Inconvenient Truth was a movie that affected many of us profoundly. Most of my family does not like Al Gore because they are in deniel about what is happening to our planet, and our role in that. A new movie does the same about our food sources in America. It is called Food, Inc. It may upset you, but I highly recommend it. The authors explore just where our food comes from, the chicken, the beef, the grains and how our big corporate food industries operate.

I am not an anti-corporate person. I agree with Calvin Coolidge that the business of America is business. In our modern life, we have accomplished many things through industry. Our supermarkets contain a richer variety of food than ever available before in the history of mankind. But, there are important issues for us to address. What are the implications of feeding our cattle corn meal when that is not their best food source? What danger do we have of serious bacterial contamination? How do the big food corporations treat our farmers? These are all questions explored in this film. Like Anderson Cooper on CNN, this film "keeps them honest".

Two of the main characters in the movie are authors I admire a lot: Eric Schlosser, who wrote Fast Food Nation, and Michael Pollen, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. These men are dedicated to keeping our food supply safe and healthy and for us to avoid the traps that make us unhealthy and obese.

Should you become a "locavore"? That is a new word to describe someone that only eats locally grown food. That may be an option for some but not for others depending on where you live. Locally grown food, like what is found in a Farmer's Market, is more likely to be fresh and have fewer questions than other commerically developed foods. I saw an interesting bumper sticker today, "Supermarkets have branches, Farmer's Markets have roots".

The tagline for Food, Inc. is "You'll never look at dinner the same way again". I must say that is true. I continue to shop in supermarkets and eat in restaurants, but I am much more mindful about what I put in my body. We all should be.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Participatory Medicine: Now is the Time to Make Your Move!

Participatory Medicine is a cooperative model of health care that encourages and expects active involvement by all connected parties (health care professionals, patients, caregivers, etc.)

When patients are aware of such things as their weight, BMI, blood pressure, recent key laboratory results, and so on, and when they come to the office motivated and prepared, outcomes are likely to be much better. The patient who passively waits for advice and direction from the physician is more likely to forget instructions, make excuses for failures, lack the discipline to lose the needed weight or stay on the required diet, and so forth.

Patients themselves, not their doctors, must be the ones to make the essential decisions about their health. They must be able to obtain the necessary information to make key decisions, then act on them.

How does this process happen? A patient may agree with this statement and want to begin to operate in this mode, but not know how to do it. Here is a short list of the essential steps necessary to begin the practice of participatory medicine:

1. If possible, find a physician who understands, and supports, this concept, including one who is willing to communicate with you by e mail and directly answer your phone calls.

2. Consider the option of using a service like edocamerica, that is dedicated to providing you with the information necessary to make decisions about your own health care. They can supplement your physician and are available to you 24/7 and always welcome your questions. Moreover, they are dedicated the concept of PM and are oriented towards health and wellness, not just managing your diseases.

3. Start following blog and twitter posts by persons who are now actively discussing how Participatory Medicine is going to change the way health care is practiced.

4. Keep a current list of your medications, including the Brand name, generic name, dose and frequency of each one.

5. Look up the most common side effects of each of your medications.

6. Check your medications for any drug-drug interactions. You can use a web site such as for this.

7. Keep a list of all of your current medical conditions and review the basic information about each of them. A site such as Mayo Clinic or Medicine Net are good, trustworthy sources for this review.

8. Start making a list of questions that you want your doctor to answer for you. If he doesn't have time to answer all of them at the next visit, ask him if you can e mail them to him. If not, ask one or two at each visit until you get them all answered. If you can't get him to address all of your questions in a satisfactory and timely fashion, consider getting another doctor who will.

Participatory medicine, working on an equal footing with your provider, in a partnership for your optimal health, is the only way you can get the most out of the health care system. So, get on the train before it leaves the station!

Your comments and dissenting opinions are always welcome.