The Problem with “Preventive Medicine”


The last time I Googled “preventive medicine” (earlier this afternoon), my search returned more than 10 Million results. Clearly, it’s an established idea, but I resent the implication of the term: that without some kind of specific medical action to the contrary, I’m tending towards illness, rather than wellness.

I admit that it’s tempting to look at something like proper dental care as preventive, but I don’t like what “preventive” does to our mental attitude, so I run my mind a bit differently.

I like to anticipate wellness and wellbeing. For the most part, I allow wellness. “Allowing wellness” is good for about 2 Million hits on Google. It is what I would like to see promoted instead of “preventive medicine” or even “proactive medicine” except in those rare cases when “preventive medicine” makes more sense in a sentence (like when talking about fluoride treatments on teeth), and there I use “proactive care.”

Even in cases where I reluctantly give the nod to proactive care, I do so reminding myself that I am contributing to my body’s natural tendency toward wellbeing, and not fending off disaster that’s just waiting to crash my immune defenses, or hobble me through the aging process.

The idea that we could just “allow” our bodies to heal or even thrive on their own is at best a stretch for most allopaths, and at worst represents an adversarial position. I can understand. When one is dealing with treating imbalance all day long, it’s not easy to hold, let alone nurture, a vision of balance that happens all by itself.

Not only that, but only a fool would argue against the fact that many existing illnesses do benefit from some kind of medical intervention in the form of correction or therapy—especially in the case of trauma.

But even in the case of trauma, our medicine is NOT doing the healing. The body system is. In such a case, the medicine is therapy, or is taking some stress from the body, or provides some boost to the body so that the body can do it’s work. A splint relieves stress from the broken arm, but doesn’t heal it.

Allowing wellness doesn’t mean inaction or antipathy towards healthful practice. It implies important choices that we make that will allow the powerful natural healing ability of the body, mind, and sprit to move towards wellbeing. In fact, when we practice both allowing wellness, and proactive care, we do many of the same things we did when we were practicing prevention, but we do them with a different attitude.

  • Instead of exercising to avoid getting fat, or reduce our chances of heart disease etc., we joyfully take up exercise to oxygenate our brain and other cells; build strength and stamina; improve our metabolism and thus our healing ability; to feel light and more graceful; and wear clothes we like (these reasons are just examples, you’ll have your very own positive reasons).
  • Instead of eating “right” or dieting to avoid high blood pressure and avoid getting fat  and put off this or that dreaded disease we’ve been brainwashed into believing is right around the corner from us, we might instead seek out the foods that make our own unique chemistry feel “lighter” or more energetic, and avoid those that make us feel “heavier” or sap our energy. Occasionally we might chose a fattening treat for the sheer joy of it, but we won’t overdo it, because we like feeling better overall more than we like the taste of something fattening.
  • Instead of a more or less permanent dependency on the latest medication, we might explore new combinations of food and alternative forms of exercise—we might even take up regular meditation or look to revise certain habits of thought that are stressing our body’s ability to cope, and thus restore the balance of wellbeing to ourselves.
  • Instead of going to the doctor giving up all our authority for a pronouncement of good or bad on this or that body system, we might see our medical practitioners as consultants advising us, but also answering our questions directly and honestly, and taking some direction from us on how we would like to approach our wellbeing.

When we take a more holistic view of our wellbeing: seeing ourselves as a system of spirit, mind, and body, and knowing that stresses anywhere in that system will impact the other parts, we have a better idea of what is required to allow wellness. I’m for a new vocabulary and new way of speaking about both illness and wellness.

Start today thinking in terms of allowing wellness. This change in inner and outer language will support an attitude of greater trust in your ability to heal, and attract new ideas and choices into your awareness.

Please feel free to comment with your own insights and vocabulary suggestions on this topic!

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