Health: it's more than Medicine
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2011
By Dr. David Pepper
Health is not simply the absence of disease. In medical school, we studied pathology—things like cancers, infections and heart attacks—to learn what went wrong and how to fix it. Today that has changed. We increasingly emphasize the importance of prevention to keep your health on track. How, you ask? By encouraging patients to change bad habits, eat right, lose weight, stop smoking and exercise, in addition to the doctoring we do.
As family physicians, we help our families deal with depression, anxiety, loss, stress and change. We work to improve environmental health, traffic safety, suicide and violence prevention, and even healthy foods for the community. Together, we, the medical community, hope to bring you important information about health issues that can help make you, your family and our community healthier. But we can't do it alone. It is after all, your health, so a large part of what we do is help motivate and engage you to take control of your health.
In this column, I hope to provide insight into the "doctor" behind the white coat and what they would tell you for common ailments. However, this column should not replace a doctor's visit, which will more accurately diagnose and assess your unique situation. I also hope to challenge you to think about your role in your own health and that of your child, neighbor and community. How do we stay happy and healthy mentally? Connected and part of a community? Avoid the ravages of addiction, fear, anger and isolation?
I have learned firsthand the connection between the patient and community health. My first-born son had asthma. This pushed me to help run an asthma program. There I learned that 1 in 5 children in that community (Fresno) had asthma. Coincidentally, the Central Valley also has some of the worst air pollution in the nation. Ultimately, a coalition of doctors and community members sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Slowly, we started to clean the air. We hope that it will help our children to breathe better, reduce the asthma problems, and lessen the amount of medication they had to take to stay healthy.
The issue went full circle, and I was reminded of what we all hear as children, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Besides air pollution, I expect you'll hear about my other passions—bicycle commuting, climate change and the built environment—as I seek to make Contra Costa, and indeed the whole area, healthier.
It is truly a joy to doctor—and every day I learn a new story. I hope to share some of these stories and address some of your concerns. So please, share your story, send me your thoughts, topic suggestions, questions and issues.
Dr. Pepper practices family medicine at the Martinez Health Center. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.