Replace your knees – or change your life?

“Need for knee replacements expected to skyrocket.”

This headline was another in a series of good news stories about our Titanic health system in the Otago Daily Times this week.  I have a newsflash for all who care:  all chronic health issues are going to continue to increase, some like a skyrocket, others perhaps more modest in trajectory. For instance, Diabetes Type 2 (DT2) is only expected to double in 20 years.  Mind you, that will be another 250,000 afflicted and suffering at great expense to us all. I expect it will be much worse than that but that is apparently the official projection.

“It is difficult to say obesity causes osteoarthritis, but there is definitely a strong link and these findings do not surprise me.” says an orthopaedic surgeon at Dunedin hospital.

That may be correct but what you can confidently suspect is that the lifestyle that leads to the former also causes the latter and therefore, like most chronic disease, is often preventable via lifestyle changes.

You may guess that lifestyle change is not the promoted solution ( though mentioned in passing) to the growing Tsunami.  Instead we apparently need to invest more and, having done that, still accept a growing waiting list because we can’t operate fast enough apparently to do 9000 knees a year.

I continue to find the currently mentality of our health thinkers perplexing and frustrating. In farming, if your animals are beset with health problems, there is a pretty short checklist to identify the problem:

  1. Are they getting enough grass/food?
  2. Are they missing important nutrients – protein, fats, carbs?
  3. Is the mineral/trace element status of the food adequate to meet their metabolic and reproductive needs?
  4. Are they eating too much “food” that it is not healthy for them (a dairy farmer feeding his animals waste bread and doughnuts springs to mind!)

If all of the above are near enough to right, you will have few health problems; if they are out of kilter, you will work your bum off all year looking after poorly performing animals and get an average to poor result at year end. You will work harder and harder every year and go backwards; your own health will suffer in the process, your resilience/immune system will be compromised. Any parallels with our health system there?

Guess what?  Items 1,2 and 3 apply to humans in exactly the same way.

My solutions to address this, as you may recall are:

1 – Incentivise our GPs to have healthy clients- ie they get paid more if you are healthy.
2 – Train health coaches to support clients to make the lifestyle changes needed to get rid of chronic disease.
3 – Run a Solution Orientated Research Project (SORP) which is similar to an XPRIZE to find the solutions we need – and start with reversing Diabetes Type 2.
4 – Properly fund maternal care. Labouring mothers still to often do the equivalent of riding through the night which was OK in 1900, but is not OK now.

If any of the above resonates in your own life and you want to do something about your own health challenges, please get in touch.



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