Wellness Revolution: How We Got Here and Where We Are Heading

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There are two ways of looking at health: 

the mere absence of disease, 

or the optimization of health and wellness. 

The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

- C.R. Scianna

We are approaching nothing short of a global wellness revolution. Are the trends in the health and wellness industry we are seeing a short-lived fad or will the transformation prove to be a paradigm shift? Well friends, I believe the writing is on the wall. We are in the early stages of a paradigm shift on how people view health and what their priorities are. People are becoming disenchanted with mainstream medicine and the overall wordy complexities and yearning for a healthier, fitter, simpler, more connected and meaningful existence.  In order to understand how we got to this point, let’s take a brief look at recent decades past.

No doubt, modern medicine has crossed many important milestones. In 1921, Canadian physician Frederick Banting and medical student Charles H. Best discovered the hormone insulin in pancreatic extracts of dogs. The following year, Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old boy with diabetes, who lay dying at the Toronto General Hospital, was given the first injection of insulin. Insulin has proven to be a great discovery, and is truly a live-saving mediation for people with type 1 diabetes. 

In 1928, penicillin, the first true antibiotic, was discovered by Alexander Fleming, Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital in London. This discovery forever changed the way infectious disease was treated, and opened the door for the discovery of other life-saving antibiotics. These are just two examples of the power and importance of pharmacology, and the benefit to humankind.

Unfortunately, one of the fundamental dilemmas with medicine is that historically, it was never intended to be a for-profit business. In 1973, President Richard Nixon signed into law, the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, in which medical insurance agencies, hospitals, clinics and even doctors, could begin functioning as for-profit business entities instead of the service organizations they were intended to be. And thus the beginning of corporate medicine, which has steadily been increasing its monopolistic stronghold on the lion’s share of modern medicine and how it’s practiced here in the U.S.

Time has proven the healthcare industry to be one of the largest industries on our planet! As such, many unintended consequences has arisen, such as the rise of chronic noncommunicable diseases (type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stress, obesity, among others) to epidemic proportions on the global stage. These conditions were borne out of a system which promotes chronic illness rather than one which encourages health and wellbeing. 

We are now living a reality in which millions of people are taking numerous mediations  for a myriad of medical aliments, and yet ironically they are sicker than ever. I believe that as the younger generations witness this dichotomy, they will continue to question the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of much of our mainstream medical model. Therein lies the desire for change, and that change is the wellness industry, whose time to shine has finally come!

There continues to be an ever-increasing awareness of overall health and wellness brewing in society. In turn, this has led to the booming market sector known as the global wellness economy (industries that enable consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives).  According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness economy encompasses: wellness real estate; workplace wellness; wellness tourism; spa economy; thermal/mineral spring; fitness and mind-body; healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss; personal care, beauty, and anti-aging; preventive and personalized medicine and public health; and traditional and complementary medicine. 

This global wellness market, carrying a price tag of $ 3.4 trillion dollars, is now three times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry. Indeed, being healthy and fit is rapidly becoming in vogue. People are spending money on such services as acupressure, acupuncture, aromatherapy, Ayurveda, biofeedback, chiropractic, exercise, hydrotherapy, manual lymph drainage, massage, meditation, music therapy, nutritional counseling, pilates, relaxation therapy, sauna therapy, sleep health, smoking cessation, stress management, tai chi, Traditional Chinese Medicine, weight loss, workplace wellness, and yoga. 

In addition, Lifestyle Medicine, one of the fastest growing segments of healthcare, can be invaluable in the drive for promoting and fostering health and wellness. Lifestyle Medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a plant-predominant dietary lifestyle, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, avoiding use of risky substances and pursuing other non-drug modalities to treat, reverse and prevent chronic disease. The adoption of the Lifestyle Medicine philosophy can indeed help greatly decrease the chronic disease burden our world is currently facing. 

In summary, the shift in healthcare we are witnessing reflects a rise in global awareness regarding personal health and wellness. People are awakening to the realization that health is one’s most valuable asset. People are realizing that health is essential for wellbeing and happiness. This shift will ultimately have monumental benefit to individuals, local communities, entire societies and ecosystems, and indeed, the planet as as whole. And what better legacy to leave for future generations! 

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live well.