Medicine and Health

What are some of the biggest challenges in healthcare and medicine today?
Answered by Deepak Chopra MD, Dr. Mehmet Oz and 1 other
  • Deepak Chopra MD

    Deepak Chopra MD

  • Dr. Mehmet Oz

    Dr. Mehmet Oz

  • Helen Marie Mahoney OBGYN

    Helen Marie Mahoney OBGYN

  1. Deepak Chopra MD Author, Founder of The Chopra Foundation, Senior Scientist, The Gallup Organization


    The big issue that concerns me in American health is that we have a sense of entitlement and no sense of responsibility. We dramatize when a bill comes up in Congress, we dramatize end-of-life care as death squads or whatever they call them, when in fact end-of-life care is where most of the expense goes and most of the suffering happens. The patient suffers; the relatives suffer; everybody suffers except the hospital, which makes money. And even the insurance company, in the end, suffers because they lose money at that point. We hardly have anyone dying at home. They all have to die in a hospital with machines around them. It's a system that is totally divorced from the essence of human beings who are spiritual beings, who want to find meaning even in death and want to find some kind of nurturing, even in the last stages of life. So that's what's wrong.

    And then there's an over-emphasis on instant gratification, whether it's through a drug or a sleeping pill or whatever, there's instant gratification. There is no understanding at all that our bodies naturally want to heal themselves, that we have to stop interfering. There are many, many things you can do for common ailments like headache or indigestion. You know, I like to use these words, the five things that hospitals have and patients spend most of their resources on -- they're pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia and constipation.

    Now I can tell you as a medical resident and intern, I used to be woken up in the middle of the night by a nurse to give a patient who was already sleeping a sleeping pill, so that the nurse could go to sleep, in case he woke up. So between pain and anxiety and nausea and insomnia and constipation, we use most of our resources. And all these things are easily treated through stress management, through massage, through breathing exercises, through a little bit of movement in the bed, a little bit of improvised yoga, through massage. There are so many things you can do that will obviate about 80 percent of our resources in the hospitals.

    There's research, you know, Donna Karan and her group here at Urban Zen have been doing research in New York hospitals in just these five things. They call them the five elements of panic, P-A-N-I-C -- pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia and constipation.  And now they are documenting all this. I think the more we can start documenting this, the more we start training people. You don't need highly specialized medical doctors to take care of most illnesses that human beings have. But we've gone down this road such a long way, there're so many special interest groups invested in this, there's so much technology invested in this, it will take a long time to change the habits of an entire nation.

    More answers from Deepak Chopra MD »

  2. Dr. Mehmet Oz Cardiac surgeon and host, The Dr. Oz Show


    Obesity dominates my concerns about the health of the country, but it's not alone. I'm very concerned about the sexual famine in America, and by that I mean the fact that folks aren't being intimate with each other, which is a way of course that we rev our engines, that we appear vital and act young towards each other. This has reached drastic proportions. Now if you do surveys on folks living in their 40s, you realize how few people are being intimate with each other. And of course there's a longevity benefit if you're having more sex.

    Probably every time you increase from once a week to twice a week, once a week being the average in America now, you'll increase your longevity about three years. Now that's an association we've seen in numerous studies. It might not be causative, but I'd certainly like to have the odds in my favor.

    Third on my list of things I worry about are dementia, and dementia is tied back to your weight and lifestyle habits. But there's also a genetic element to it, and we have not been as successful as I had hoped bringing new therapies for Alzheimer's and other causes of dementia into the fray. But I see that changing, and believe over the next decade we're going to be in clinical trials with drugs that have meaningful impact, really can change the natural history of dementia in this country.

    The fourth big challenge we face are the big cancers, the lung cancers in particular, which is the number one cancer. But I'll put breast and colon in that group as well. And I think these cancers are increasing in part because we've got hormonal changes in our body driven by obesity that makes it easier for some of these cancers to grow, but we're also exposed to toxins, and I don't think we appreciate the impact of all those toxins from our environment in our bodies. And they add up -- subtle things like arsenic found in the food supply or radon from our basements or a change in the natural order of how food is brought to us, including genetically modified foods, which I can't say are dangerous, but I can't say they're not, either. And there are all these big question marks around those that continue to resonate.

    And the fifth item is one that will probably shock most people. But I believe that the biggest challenge of all that we face, if we really want to be able to as a population move into our 10th decade of life with vitality to become centenarians with the joyful lust for life that you should have, the only way to get there is to be firm enough, to be sturdy enough, and the number five problem we face prevents that. It's frailty. Too many folks are not physically active enough to maintain muscle mass.

    Remember, your bones don't rebuild themselves just because you want them to. They rebuild themselves every seven years based on what load they bear. So if you're not exercising the muscles get weak around the bones, the bones get weak themselves, you begin to start to lean forward, become kyphotic, and then when you get an illness like a cancer or heart disease, it culls you from the population because you're too frail to weather the storm. And when we looked around at populations where people live a long time, physical activity is an absolutely essential predictor of how long people will live.

    More answers from Dr. Mehmet Oz »

  3. Helen Marie Mahoney OBGYN Private Practitioner and University of Phoenix College of Nursing Instructor


    I think convincing people that they have to take part in their health. That they actually have to get out and exercise, and they have to watch what they eat, and that we don't have a magic pill that's going to fix everything. There are so many medications that will fix things that they want something simple. They don't want to work. They'll tell me, I've gained weight. And I say, Well, how much do you exercise? I don't have time to exercise. Can you give me that diet pill? So I think that's one of the challenges is to just have them take responsibility.

    More answers from Helen Marie Mahoney OBGYN »

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