By any measure, this nation is currently suffering from an epidemic stemming from diet-related health problems. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-communicable chronic diseases – such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes – “are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.” Chronic disease management is a growing burden on insurers, government health programs, and businesses, not to mention the patients. Since this problem is so widespread, it is not enough to hope that someone else will enact change. If we want better conditions, each of us has to do something to make them happen. We need to come together as a society to protect the general population. From my experience as a Division I student-athlete, I have learned that we as individuals simply cannot do it alone. We are so much stronger in numbers, and the naturopathic community is just a small subset of a much larger group of medical professionals. If we are to combat the current health epidemic, we must stand together, as one.
Healthcare professionals have the unique ability to be the catalyst for this change. Does the Hippocratic Oath not promise, “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug”? It is imperative that physicians unite as leaders in the fight against diet related chronic disease.Naturopaths, nurses, medical physicians, surgeons, integrative health specialists – there should be no feelings of hostility or superiority between groups, it will only get in the way of our common core goal: to help people improve their health and overall wellness. Representatives from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF sum it up best: “[What is so promising about naturopathic and integrative medicine is that it] emphasizes respect for the human capacity for healing, the importance of the relationship between the practitioner and the patient, a collaborative approach to patient care among practitioners, and the practice of conventional, complementary, and alternative health care that is evidence based.” While I fully believe in the principles and ideals of naturopathic medicine, we, as naturopathic doctors, cannot cure, restore, and empower the entire nation on our own. It is crucial that all healthcare providers learn the power of their patients’ voices in promoting their own health. Every day that they interact with their patients, they are uniquely equipped to listen to them, think critically about their needs, and amplify their voices to drive positive change in healthcare. It is time that we stop being bystanders and become leaders in combatting the public health epidemic.