It all begins with a template of perfect human health. We need one if we are to be proactive about our health because it is the measure of what we need to do, and what we can take responsibility for. This template, a model of absolute health, enables the strategies that make it possible for us to achieve excellent health as individuals and as a society.
So why don’t we have a template of perfect human health? One reason is that the subject of health is fragmented. Good nutrition is lost in a fog of contradictory arguments and the real benefits of exercise have been undermined by the hyper-focus on body fat percentages. Add to this the disconnection and even conflict between health care modalities and it becomes very difficult to clearly define perfect human health. This leaves us with a fragmented picture of health, dealing with pieces of the jigsaw, which in turn fractures our efforts for complete health.
Not having a cohesive, big picture view is chronically disempowering for those of us who, as individuals, want to proactively take charge of our health, but also for our health care providers. We have amassed a huge amount of medical and health science but because we don’t have a clear template of perfect human health, we therefore don’t have a mutual goal that can unify the diversity of available understanding and skills. This means that we can’t create a workable strategy to achieve absolute health. Like anything in life, no goals and no strategies equals no success.
Currently we approach health something like this – we get sick or something breaks and we go to see a doctor of our chosen modality. The doctor does an assessment and prescribes a treatment. Unfortunately the doctor has a limited timeframe, and so that treatment has to include assumptions. So the problem may or maybe not fixed. And this cycle repeats until that problem is solved or we give up and accept that nothing can be done. Chronic fatigue and idiopathic back pain are easy examples of this.
Contrast that scenario with this one: a person with idiopathic back pain visits their General Practitioner. He or she contrasts their patient’s symptoms, history and lifestyle with the template of perfect human health. As a result they can see that the pain is probably the result of the patient sitting for extended periods of time, resulting in an unstable core, which in turn has caused a muscle spasm. The best solution for this would be to refer that patient through to an exercise therapist or physiologist who could then develop a rehabilitation strategy that could also include an osteopath and massage therapist. The problem is solved because there is a strategy that was not locked into the problem alone, but it was created in context of the bigger picture.
This story also highlights a critical point – no single modality has all the answers for the entire spectrum of human health problems. But collectively they do!
As we need a strategy that incorporates multiple modalities in order to maintain absolute health, it follows that we need a template that covers every aspect of human health – physiological, biomechanical, musculoskeletal, neural, and mental.
If this template was available to everyone our health, and public health generally, could improve dramatically, simply because our proactivity and self-responsibility would produce much better results. Currently our efforts are inevitably hit or miss. At the moment we are also placed in a position where too much responsibility for our own health falls to other people, and this means that we default to an interventionist style of health care. Effectively our health is reduced to ‘not being sick’, which is far from perfect human health.
As an exercise therapist and I have people come to me who have had back or knee pain for 20 or 30 years. I have learned to solve their ‘problems’ (i.e: functional deficits) by reverse engineering perfect physical function. My template is a high performance athlete in perfect physical condition. I then contrast the current state of my new client with that template looking for the differences, and the causes of those differences. They may seem to be a million miles away from that template, but as a goal it enables a very effective strategy – and it works remarkably well. This is because I am not isolating a problem and just trying to fix that. My strategy is to transform their entire body in the direction of that template, and that resolves any dysfunction and associated pain.
A universally accepted template of perfect human health would be a brilliant achievement, and I look forward to it. I would like to see a template that incorporates all aspects of health so that we can fully utilise the diverse and specialised knowledge and skills that are available in more cohesive and inclusive strategies for all health issues.
You will find more in my book Eat, Move & Thrive: the 5 secrets of very healthy people.