A Commentary on American Health

ByABC News
January 31, 2002, 10:28 AM

Feb. 1 -- Editor's note: A member of the World Economic Forum takes a closer look at the state of American health.

I am a heart surgeon. Every day I take someone's heart and stop it completely. Sometimes I fix it. Sometimes I replace it with another heart. Sometimes I replace it with a machine.

The miracle of modern medicine allows physicians to grasp people on the precipice of death and pull them to health. At least that's what I thought in the isolated, temperature controlled world of the OR.

But my patients demanded more. They showed me that alleviating symptoms is not necessarily curing disease and that surviving is not synonymous with being well.

I learned to treat the whole patient, rather than just her arteries or his valves and this stimulated the creation of a complementary medicine center.

My patients today are offered customized alternative treatments including yoga, massage, and guided imagery in conjunction with their high technology medical devices.This holistic approach created empowered patients who were well equipped to face the challenges of illness and life.

Yet, doctors influence the world one patient at a time and the tools we use to create health awareness do not touch the millions who have abdicated responsibility for their own well being and the overarching needs of society. There had to be a way for communities to become actively involved in creating a healthy environment and encouraging citizen participation in wellness.

While searching for a mythical operating theatre for society, I was invited to visit a group of influential decision makers at the World Economic Forum. Over the past several years as demonstrators petitioned outside the guarded entrances to the meeting halls, many participants had the epiphany that countries cannot sustain creation of wealth without also building health.

'The Possible Human' Manual

Into this fertile soil was planted the seeds for a health manual for society, The Possible Human, slated for release at this year's annual meeting. First, we need an accurate diagnosis of our current condition.