The Three Sisters

Medicine, Healthcare and Wellness sound synonymous to most people.  In reality, they are three step-sisters in the same house, always bickering.

Can they ever be reconciled?

First, some words about Hippocratic medicine.  In many important ways, Hippocratic medicine is the opposite of healthcare and wellness.

Hippocratic medicine puts the patient first. This is why it is so popular with patients and so unpopular with the power elite.  Remember, Hippocrates spent 20 years in jail for undermining the powers of his day.  Sadly, although modern medicine is based on Hippocratic medicine, it has largely yielded to the seduction of wolfish power (while remaining dressed in the white wool of Hippocratic medicine).  It has become the “Medical Industry” and puts money and power first.  Medicine dances at arm’s length, in golden slippers.

Healthcare, on the other hand, puts the community first.  It is a top-down, statistical approach and thus beloved by number crunchers of all shapes and sizes.  Over the past 160 years, Healthcare has produced some spectacular health outcomes.  No wonder she is the belle of the ball.  But… Only a small step separates “community” from “community leaders”.  If you love power (and numbers), then Healthcare is the most gorgeous and seductive of the three sisters.  She tangoes in high heels with a rose between her teeth.

And then, Wellness… Properly understood, wellness deals with personal lifestyle choices to prevent or avoid illness, or to enhance quality of life.  However, Wellness usually turns the patient into a client or consumer – an economic unit.  Imagine what would happen to both Medicine and Healthcare if everyone on earth suddenly adopted a healthy lifestyle.  There would be global economic chaos within a year or so.  The Wellness industry is ready to pick up the economic slack where the other two sisters lose influence.  Wellness is the most unpredictable, most anarchic of the three sisters.  She dances barefoot and with wild flowers in her hair.  But she is not innocent; she has her own schemes to conquer the Prince.

Small wonder, then, that there is such animosity between the step-sisters.  Today, Medicine and Healthcare have forged an uneasy alliance, but Wellness refuses to join their tea party.  But yes, Wellness has also become an industry, just like the other two.

Industries only exist where there is a strong imbalance in power.  Each of the three sisters smartly manipulates her constituency, making those they are supposed to serve feel powerless and vulnerable.  And where constituencies overlap, sparks fly between the sisters as they fight for turf.

Is such a dismal view of health the full picture?  Fortunately, not quite.  There are doctors, healthcare workers and wellness experts who buck the trend and break down the walls of power to meet from heart to heart.  If you know such people, treasure them highly.  At the same time, empower yourself by reading widely, including the opinions of people you do not agree with.  Find a few trusted sources of information. Turn information into knowledge by deep questioning. Turn knowledge into wisdom by considering opposing views.

You do not need to become an expert on every health topic, but at least become an expert on your disease and risk factors.  And with that wisdom, band together with others in the same boat as you for support and guidance.  Group support and encouragement is invaluable when it comes to lifestyle changes.  You may be no more than a Cinderella in the health system, but the glass slipper of health belongs to you – take it boldly.

Kindest,

Doc Frank

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2 thoughts on “The Three Sisters

  1. Frank; as usual a well crafted writ. Thank you for the clarifications of things we normally “munge” together. Ken Wilber points out that “differentiation” is a key gift of the Modern era, and this article does just that.

    On this, is it true that in China, doctors are “paid when patients are well” implying that they are NOT paid if they are sick? I’m trying to get to the bottom of this question, and I think you’d be well placed to comment.

    • Hi Nic, thanks for the encouragement!

      I really cannot comment on the practice in China, but I will try to find out. What I do now from the older African traditional healing practices, is that payment often was voluntary and the type of payment was not prescribed. Most of this disappeared in the past 20 years or so.

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