The Wellness-Illness Culture Wars
We are currently experiencing a wellness crisis in our culture, what some may call a wellness culture war. This crisis that has two faces. One face is a culture that approaches health through a focus on disease management rather than teaching the fundamentals of healthy living. This culture has led to health care costs spiraling out of control as it glorifies and promotes unhealthy lifestyle practices, immediate gratification (the quick fix—a pill for every ill) and the consumption of chemical-laden foods and toxic products through slick media advertising; a rapidly deteriorating level of public health with epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease is the result. Sadly, this culture has seemingly unlimited resources and controls our major media.
The other face is a smaller but growing culture that
looks to the fundamental principles of healthy living
to lead us to a higher level of personal health and
well-being. This culture creates services which are
rarely covered by our health insurance system; promotes
consumption of organic foods grown without chemical
fertilizers and pesticides and lifestyle products which do not
contain harmful or carcinogenic chemical additives; displays
a higher level of health and well-being; and suffers less from
the epidemic lifestyle and stress engendered illnesses than the
members of the “illness culture.” This culture has had limited
financial resources and difficulties in getting their message out
through our major media.
The first culture is focused on illness. The second culture
is focused on maintaining wellness. The illness culture is a very modern phenomenon, growing rapidly since the advent
of the pharmaceutical drug industry into our current “medical-industrial complex.” The roots of the wellness culture are very ancient. The systems of ancient Chinese, Ayurvedic, Greek, and Islamic medicine (Unani) viewed health as a state of balance and illness as the result of not living in accordance with natural laws—what I to refer to as “the human operating system.” In these systems good health and longevity were the primary focus of medicine, and the secondary focus was returning people to good health when they became ill.
Moving to a Culture of Wellness
To bring about an expansion of the “culture of wellness” in
our society where it becomes the prevailing culture will require a new type of leadership from our federal government, the medical industry, and corporate America, that looks beyond the limited vision of special interests that are not in the common public interest. Our government must put out a clear and positive message about health and wellness and take the food, medical, pharmaceutical, and other industries to task when their products present a public danger and threaten public health.
Corporate America needs to step up to the plate and begin
to direct their R&D efforts toward creating products that support health and wellness and do not increase the strain on our overtaxed health care system. Corporations must recognize that their advertising campaigns can either enhance the emerging culture of wellness or support the culture of illness—fast food, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, processed foods, and chemical additives that lead to epidemic obesity, diabetes, heart disease,
fatigue, and stress-related illnesses. For an average individual to pursue a wellness-based lifestyle in the midst of a culture of illness promoted through TV, radio, print, and Internet advertising, it is an uphill battle.