There is hardly anything we do today that doesn’t have some relationship to Thomas Edison. He is connected to every item that uses electricity. He had over 2,000 patents worldwide and is credited with creating the motion-picture industry, the recording industry, the x-ray machine and the much appreciated tattoo pen! If you Google “Quotes by Thomas Edison” you will not be underwhelmed with the volume of sometimes sage-like, sometimes pithy, sometimes humorous and always enlightening quotations.
“The doctor of the future will give no medication but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
Back in 1903 Thomas Edison predicted that “The doctor of the future will give no medication but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Mr. Edison was perhaps paying homage to Hippocrates, who said “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” Even though over two millennia passed between those statements, the foundational sciences that Hippocrates and Edison were familiar with were quite primitive. Their recommendations were deeply insightful and “cutting edge” against the prevailing social customs of their day. Yet even with that wisdom, there was plenty of suffering to go around.
“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”
As “health coaches” they could have been the best of their time, but their wisdom couldn’t overcome the challenges they faced with human suffering and disease. Since their time, there have rapid scientific advances in a wide array of fields, and there’s no sign of slowing. Consider for a moment that if you wanted to stay current on all the scientific literature and committed to reading 5 hours each night, it’s been estimated that by the end of one year you would be 50 million years behind in your reading!
The challenging questions that we face regarding health are vast and complex. We should grant that Hippocrates and Edison had a worthwhile nugget of wisdom. They also faced an overriding scarcity of information, physical resources and technology. Today we face a vast ocean of information and resources without the requisite wisdom to apply them (at least optimally) to our benefit.
Advancement providing a benefit in some areas of life ultimately leads to substantial hidden costs. Those who benefit from a technology are often not the ones who bear the costs of its use. And unfortunately, the solution isn’t just technical but creates political challenges that are every bit as complex. What seems to be a desirable advance in one category emerges as a nightmare in other categories.
It was a no-brainer from an agricultural perspective
to develop improved strains of staple crops.
A broad example of this could be illustrated in the agricultural industry. Food influences health in a myriad of ways and it’s been an ongoing challenge to establish reliable supply chains to meet the needs of a rapidly growing, diverse culture. It is no surprise that the industry would continually strive to overcome obstacles faced in the past. The more important the crop or staple, the bigger the stakes. It was a no-brainer from an agricultural perspective to develop improved strains of staple crops.
One company’s approach sought to overcome crop losses to destructive and costly weeds, by developing strains of crops that were resistant to a weed killer (herbicide). It turns out that this product combination of seed and herbicide has been a marketing success, bringing in billions of dollars each year as a dominant player in its agricultural market. Whatever it’s benefits in terms of crop production, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the herbicide kills more than weeds, and the combination has produced considerable misery around the world.
The herbicide glyphosate is so prevalent in today’s food supply that it is virtually impossible to eliminate from your diet. It is a known cancer-causing agent and causes all sorts of mischief in human metabolism. While Roundup (glyphosate) is certainly worth highlighting, and much more should be said, it is only one of tens of thousands of chemicals in our environment which warrant far better scrutiny regarding their effect on human health.
This sort of complex issue needs a “champion” to maintain a broad perspective of awareness, pursue avenues of investigation, and provide sensible guidance towards creating sustainable and well-integrated wellness-focused programs.
Basic scientific research is not that champion, because that research has opened “Pandora’s Box” before it detected its unintended consequences. Medicine is not that champion, because it is far too involved putting out resultant fires than pursuing the finer points of primary prevention.
Health coaching as a field has the opportunity to establish itself as an important source of bridging wisdom over the ever-changing “troubled waters” that threaten our health. Health coaches have to stay vigilant in pursuit of bridgeable divides in every field of influence. Theirs is a task which is with great purpose, and whose rewards are as fulfilling as the challenges are daunting. This is Reed Davis, just saying….(Queue “We are the Champions” by Queen)