Book: The Betrayal of Health - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-01-2006, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm a librarian in a very small town in Vermont. Lately I've been doing a weekly radio program, focusing each program on some aspect of the library's collection and expanding outward to other resources.

In a couple of weeks I'm planning to do a program on Big Pharma. We have a couple of recent and excellent books on the topic. I was digging through the collection and I found this one:

The Betrayal of Health: The Impact of Nutrition, Environment, and Lifestyle on Illness in America by Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. It is from 1991, but still has some relevant material.

The most interesting part, to me, is in chapter 9, The Limits of Modern Medicine. He talks about the amazing achievements of modern medicine, describing a dramatic rescue involving terrible injuries and extraordinary surgery. Then he continues, on page 195:
Quote:
Ironically, the wonder drugs of the last century may never have worked as well as we thought. Medical historians report that the dramatic improvements in morbidity and mortality rates in the past hundred years were not exclusively, nor even mainly, due to doctors' interventions. The death rate from many of the most virulent infectious diseases had begun to drop well before wonder drugs came on the scene. With the exception of the small pox vaccine and the diphtheria antitoxin, most of medicine's disease-specific weapons were not even developed until the 1930s--well into infectious disease's decline.

But if doctors' interventions--mainly vaccinations and drugs--were not the chief eradicators of infectious disease, what was?
He goes on to describe the naive reformers who believed that hunger, dirt, pollution and general misery must have something to do with disease. Silly people! However, these reformers forced through a general upgrade in the standard of living in many countries and, just by accident, not based on scientific research or anything, brought about the dramatic decline of infectious disease.

On page 197 he talks about the Navajo-Cornell project which ran between 1955 and 1960. This was an attempt to improve the health of the Navajo people by bringing to bear all the big guns of modern medicine. The Navajo were living a very unhealthy life, with poverty, malnutrition, substance abuse and severe social malfunction due to being forced to live on a reservation that provided almost none of the necessary resources for a good life.

Quote:
At the end of the five-year project the mortality rate from tuberculosis had dropped somewhat, but the Navajo's overal health picture remained distressingly bleak. The incidence of other infectious diseases remained high, and the total death rate had changed remarkably little. Most discouraging, however, was the infant mortality rate--which was still three times the national average.
I don't totally agree with this doctor's approach, but it is great to see an M.D. talking about this sort of thing so frankly.

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Old 05-17-2006, 04:07 AM
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Wait, so is he saying that they vaccinated the Navajo, but did not provide sanitary conditions, food, safe water, and the Navajo had no improvement in health?
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Old 05-17-2006, 01:39 PM
 
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I'm reading this book right now but I haven't gotten that far -- it's an interesting read. The section on the industrialization of food was very depressing. We think we have it so much better because of the variety of foods available but when you consider how the nutrient value of the foods has changed (how they are grown, picked, and transported/stored), are we really that much better off. Perhaps only marginally.
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Old 05-17-2006, 11:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies
Wait, so is he saying that they vaccinated the Navajo, but did not provide sanitary conditions, food, safe water, and the Navajo had no improvement in health?
He wasn't that specific about what was provided: just says medical care. I'm assuming that people were able to go see doctors when they were sick, and I would also assume that the babies were vaccinated according to the protocol at the time (1955-1960).

It is a pretty clear statement that modern medicine, without modern sanitation, adequate diet, AND some degree of mental and emotional health is ineffective. The author seemed to feel that the situation of the Navajos: little opportunity for constructive work, prevalent substance abuse, breakdown of traditional cultural life and so forth was as destructive as the malnutrition. You could say that they were emotionally malnourished as well as physically.

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Old 01-08-2007, 03:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Old 01-08-2007, 05:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wanted to add:

Unless people have read a lot of history (or good historical novels) they have no concept of how bad the living conditions were in cities before the creation of modern sewage systems, nor how desperately poor people were before the advent of modern welfare systems. So the fantasy that "vaccines saved us" makes sense. People (just like us) used to die of all these terrible diseases and now they don't.

For some good vivid reading on bad living conditions, read Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt a memoir of his miserably poor childhood in Limerick, Ireland. People are dying throughout the book. From malnutrition. From tuberculosis. From pneumonia. Nobody ever dies of chickenpox, mumps or measles.
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