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Rethinking disease, rethinking health care

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SmartBrief is partnering with Big Think to create a weekly video spotlight in SmartBrief on Leadership called “VIP Corner: Video Insights Powered by Big Think.” This week, we’re featuring author Mark Hyman.

The human body is commonly understood as one unit with many functioning parts, and the body’s resilience and ability to overcome trauma and illness is renowned. But medicine, author Mark Hyman says, has remained in the mode of: Isolate the problem, attack it (probably with drugs), cure it and move on — until the next crisis.

This is especially a problem when moving beyond the deadliest diseases of yesteryear to confront what he calls “chronic lifestyle-driven diseases.” Isolating and tackling the problem won’t work when it involves someone’s entire lifestyle. Instead, while we think of the body as a collection of systems, we must build medicine to be systems-driven. “There’s no such thing as breast cancer. … There’s no such thing as heart disease. It’s basically a set of imbalances that are derived from multiple insults,” he says.

The problem is speediness. What we may know takes time to become science, to become medical practice. But regardless, “functional medicine” is the next wave, where we treat the body’s illnesses for the causes and consider the whole system rather than the symptoms.

“So the future of medicine is systems medicine. It’s predictive, it’s preventive, it’s participatory and it’s personalized,” Hyman says. “So this is the future of health care, and functional medicine provides a roadmap to solve the problem of chronic disease for so many different things.”

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