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 up to 80% of most chronic disease today.
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.
How so? Current research shows we have the potential to eliminate up to 80% of most chronic disease TODAY 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, and proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition habits. It's astounding to even consider the possibility. Such an approach would leave only 20% of current disease levels to manage and cure.
And this isn't just a problem for wealthy countries like the US. 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 ten percent reduction, especially among the under privileged who are disproportionately affected.
I believe this is one of the donation and investment 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. This leaves very little investment for innovative, preventative solutions which have the greatest potential for immediate impact.
Although I do have many ideas I'm currently pursuing on this topic, 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 love, acknowledgement and support from powerful influencers like yourselves.
In summary, your collective efforts are both admirable and inspiring and need to continue but they are missing an enormous opportunity to potentially reduce up to 80% 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 currently works in the Bay Area in Healthcare Administration. He holds a bachelor's degree in dietetics and a master's in public health. In his spare time he's on a personal mission to save the world from chronic disease, premature death and obesity through a number of projects including HealthMovement.com (Beta), LifestyleHealth12.com and another project still waiting for a catchy name.
I am first and foremost a husband to my amazing wife and a father to our sweet daughter and little boy.