An open letter to: Bill & Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerburg & Priscilla Chan, Larry Page & Sergey Brin
As a health professional, I’m inspired by your collective efforts to make a meaningful impact on world health issues but I’d like to challenge the current approach. We are missing a huge opportunity to reduce chronic disease.
Imagine if millions of people drowned each year due to lack of aquatic skills and we, as a society, thought it reasonable to invest most resources into finding a cure for human drowning instead of teaching people how to swim properly.
Current research shows we have the potential to eliminate up to 80 percent of most chronic disease today, right now, without any further research or additional knowledge.
No. That’s not a typo.
The collective research tells us it’s possible if we can help people adopt healthy lifestyle habits including smoking cessation, weight control, stress reduction as well as proper sleep, exercise and nutrition habits. It’s astounding to even consider the possibility. Such an approach would leave only 20 percent of current disease levels to manage and cure.
And this isn’t just a problem for wealthy countries like the United States. In fact poor countries are disproportionately affected by chronic disease.
The World Health Organization estimates that, worldwide, chronic diseases will account for double “the number of deaths from all infectious diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined.” And is “an under-appreciated cause of poverty [that] hinders the economic development of many countries.”
Imagine the positive impact in our communities worldwide of even a five or 10 percent reduction, especially among the underprivileged who are disproportionately affected.
I believe the failure to promote healthy habits is one of the travesties of our time. The majority of research and investment dollars for health projects related to chronic disease is devoted to either finding a cure or managing the disease, which leaves very little investment for innovative, preventative solutions which have the greatest potential for immediate impact.
Certainly, I don’t profess to have all the answers. This problem deserves and requires more well-funded teams of innovative, intelligent and passionate people dedicated to finding the right solutions. But, to do so, it needs more acknowledgement and support from powerful influencers like yourselves.
In summary, your collective efforts are both admirable and inspiring and need to continue but you are missing an enormous opportunity to potentially reduce up to 80 percent of most chronic disease today.
Don’t wait for a cure. Use the knowledge and research we already have and take action immediately to minimize chronic disease and the associated suffering and loss of life. Donate and invest more heavily in preventative health solutions. The world desperately needs it.
Rich Millar, MPH
Rich Millar holds a master’s degree in public health. He currently works in the Bay Area in healthcare administration.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.