Alice and Zizi are two women, between 30 and 40 years old, of similar height and weight, although Alice is a bit taller and Zizi a bit heavier. Neither Alice nor Zizi has any medical problems – they are both normal and healthy.
so… Who is healthier, Alice, or Zizi?
At this point – we simply don’t know. It is quite likely that one of them is healthier than the other., but we have no idea who nor by how much.
How might we determine who is healthier? Is there any authority we can consult? As far as I know, there are no authorities on healthiness. We might ask a doctor – but doctors are authorities on illness, not healthiness. Alice and Zizi are not ill. We could ask an ‘alternative health practitioner’, but they too study illness not healthiness. Doctors, and alternative practitioners alike, will search for illness – and find none.
Where might we find an expert on healthiness? If you were planning, or planning to attend a conference on health – who would you like to see as the keynote speaker? There are many famous doctors experts on illness, not experts on healthiness. Who are the famous experts on the science of healthiness?
Who should be the keynote speaker? The sad truth is that we have no experts on health. The keynote speaker might be one of many doctors of medicine – but there are no doctors of health. I reviewed the list of speakers for the Wired conference, just in case I missed something – but none of them have made studies of healthiness. A few have made studies of illness.
Truth be told, I can’t actually find a single person who studies healthiness – as opposed to illness. I can’t find a single scientific authority on healthiness – even though every city has many doctors of medicine, doctors of illness, even doctors of philosophy – there are no PhD’s of Health. There are also some entrepreneurs – people who make money from illness, and some famous athletes. Do athletes have special knowledge of health? An athletes goal is to peak strength or endurance, in time for the competition, which might actually be a deviation from healthiness.
Wired, incidentally, has not taken on this task alone – they are working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – who say of their mission “Our mission is to improve the health and health care of all Americans.”
However, if you take a moment to scan further into their web pages you will begin to understand their mission is actually “Our mission is to improve the wellness and sick care of all Americans.” Wellness is the opposite of sickness. Health and healthiness is NOT the opposite of sickness, any more than death is the opposite of life. Death is just ‘dead’. Life is there to be explored, enjoyed and enhanced. As is healthiness. But illness is just to be suffered – or to be cured.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation site goes on to say “As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted solely to the public’s health, we have a unique capability and responsibility to confront the most pressing health and health care problems threatening our society.” But when they say ‘the most pressing health and health care problems’ they really mean ‘the most pressing sickness and sick care problems‘. Health, after all, is not pressing. Health is not a ‘problem’.
Who speaks for health? I can’t find anyone who is searching for healthiness. I can’t find a scientific field of ” the study of health”. No theories, no experiments, no scientific journals. There are many on medicine – but none on health. Thus, there are no authorities of the science of health.
We have no standard way, not even a single disputed technique to measure the healthiness of Alice and Zizi. No way to determine who is healthier.
Why do we want to know who is healthier? If we know who is healthier, we can begin to study factors that improve or decrease healthiness scientifically. As I stood in line at the grocery store today, one of the magazines blared “get younger by eating potato chips” – a flashy heading for an article about antioxidants in purple potatoes. But did anyone bother to measure if the antioxidants outweigh the high glycemic values of potato chips? Nope. No science was used.
We might want to study, for example, whether healthy people live longer and die better? How do you want to die? It makes sense to think so, but is it true? If not – does that mean our measurements of healthiness are flawed? But today we have no scientific measurements of healthiness – no way to test the health of people, foods, diets, exercise, or any other decision we might make in an attempt to improve our healthiness. It’s all just guesswork without a science. And as a result, every ‘health’ magazine is full of nonsense – ABCDE is good for you blares one headline, but it’s bad for you on the next shelf. There is some truth there, but it is impossible to find in the noise.
Everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness – but it’s difficult to pursue healthiness effectively without scientific information.
to your health, tracy
This is the first of several posts where I will explore the concept of healthiness through the examples of Alice and Zizi. I’d love to see your ideas and thoughts in the comments. Here is a list of the other Alice and Zizi blog posts.
|The Health Test: Alice and Zizi – Part 2 The Common Cold|
|The Health Test: Alice and Zizi – Part 3 The Immune System|
|Zizi Gets a Cold, Or Not?|
|Alice and Zizi: A visit to the Dentist Part 1 – Whose Teeth are the Healthiest?|
|The Health Test: Alice and Zizi – Part 5 The Flu|
|The Dentist part 2 – Alice and Zizi discuss Fluoride|