Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The discussion of health care continues, both all around the U.S. and also here in the land of 10,000 blogs. It's been pleasing to see so many people commenting on this issue, and bringing diverse perspectives to the table in mostly respectful ways. Today, I would like to address an element of health care that is always on my mind, but which hasn't directly appeared in this current discussion.
J9 Anonymous - who I think is different from the first Anonymous that posted on here, wrote the following, addressing the high cost of western, allopathic medicine (the current, dominant medical model:
"Another thing people could do for better free food is to forage in season. Every fall in NYC, the old Chinese ladies go around to places in the parks where the gingko trees are and collect the nuts. Nutritious plants that might be in your area:juneberries, highbush cranberry, thistle, stinging nettle, lamb's quarters, burdock, dandelion. There are lots of library books on the subject. Because foraged food is more nutritious you don't need to eat as much volume because it is so rich."
In a later post, she went on to speak about going to alternative/complimentary healers, saying the following:
"I don't want to say doctor because it excludes homeopaths, naturopaths, OMD'S, midwives, lactation consultants, Native American healers, etc. Most of the healers I deal with are single person operations so they don't even have a secretary. In the city, you might go to their office or apartment but out here in the country, we actually go to their house or they come to ours. None of them have ever asked about my income so there is no such thing as making too much or too little if you need a break. This is face-to-face human interaction and compassion that I am talking about."
To me, these comments strike at the heart of the problems of western, allopathic medicine. Not only has it become to exclusively dependent on a single approach to health, but it also has lost, in a lot of ways, the human connection/interaction component that is so necessary to healing.
The passion I have for a single payer model is mostly driven by the desire for all people to have access to western, allopathic medicine when it most counts: during a crisis. Time and time again, western, allopathic medicine proves to be wonderful when it comes to putting us back together again after a major accident, or dealing with life threatening conditions like heart attacks and strokes. And these same issues are so horribly expensive that those of us without insurance, or who have poor insurance, are doomed to an added fear of huge bills to pay at the very least, and often bankruptcy and other economic crises that follow us for years after the actual event. Beyond that, the fact that many people end up waiting to get care until it's an emergency means that there is an added level of suffering which never needed to be there in the first place. Isn't that our vow - to end all suffering. Even if it's impossible, I say it's worth putting every effort we have in that direction. Saying "too bad" or "poor you, better save more money next time" to those who don't have health insurance coverage isn't the Buddha Way in my opinion.
However, the comments of J9 bring up both the deficiencies in our health care system, and also the deficiencies in the basic care knowledge of the general public. In less than four generations, the basic knowledge about common medicinal plants and wild foods that most of our ancestors, no matter where they came from, had, is now dangerously rare. Although it's true that in recent years more people have taken an interest in alternative/complimentary medicine models, it's also true that most people look at me in great surprise when I say they could eat stinging nettles not only to detoxify their bodies, but also as a source of plant protein. Here's a link to some more info about nettles Nettles - Medicinial/Nutritional Information
There many easy, safe, and inexpensive ways to prevent disease that people have forgotten due to the rise of the current medical model, combined with the rise of large scale corporate farming, supermarkets, and convenience-based living in general. A man named Samuel Thomson in the early to mid-19th century built an entire system of populist medicine around a pair of plants, one of which is the cayenne pepper. Who hasn't heard of chili peppers, and yet a lot of people have no clue that peppers are a great preventative medicine, and can also be used for such basic ailments as the common cold and the flu. Here's a link to Cayenne info. Cayenne Pepper Health Benefits
When discussing health care, and changes to the current system, I also think it's essential that we consider what it means to be healthy, and how might approach both preventative medicine and healing from illness. One of the benefits of not having health insurance these past several years is that it has increased the intensity of my interest in other ways of creating and maintaining health. I have truly come to believe at a lot of suffering and illness present in modern societies is directly related to how disconnected we have become from our natural environments. And even though I still see a need for a national, single payer health care system, I also believe that it's imperative that we return to the knowledge of ancient therapies, plant medicine, and wild foods.
p.s. The photo is of the nettle patch in my garden. It started as a single plant I discovered in an alley three years ago, which I transplanted and let grow in its new, more soil-healthy environment.
Posted by Nathan at 8:06 AM