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 recently finished reading/listening to Oprah's book "What I Know For Sure." I loved it and highly recommend it to anyone! There were a ton of nuggets of wisdom. If you don't want to read the book (you should really reconsider), at least take 3 minutes and read some of my favorite quotes from the book. Enjoy!
“Author Neale Donald Walsch says, “So long as you’re still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside yourself can you own yourself.”
“There is one irrefutable law of the universe: We are each responsible for our own life. If you’re holding anyone else accountable for your happiness, you’re wasting your time. You must be fearless enough to give yourself the love you didn’t receive.”
"I recognize then what I know now for sure: If you can get paid for doing what you love, every paycheck is a bonus. Give yourself the bonus of a lifetime: Pursue your passion. Discover what you love. Then do it!"
“After the hundreds of stories I’ve heard of atrocities around the globe, I know that if you’re a woman [or man] born in the United States, you’re one of the luckiest women [or men] in the world. Take your good fortune and lift your life to its highest calling. Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility.”
“Delight thyself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
“Value yourself more.”
“French philosopher-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: 'We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.' ”
“I know for sure that you cannot give to everyone else and not give back to yourself. You will end up empty, or at best, less than what you can be for yourself and your family and your work. Replenish the well of yourself, for yourself.”
“When you make loving others the story of your life, there's never a final chapter, because the legacy continues. You lend your light to one person, and he or she shines it on another and another and another. And I know for sure that in the final analysis of our lives- when the to-do lists are no more, when the frenzy is finished, when our e-mail inboxes are empty- the only thing that will have any lasting value is whether we've loved others and whether they've loved us.”
“What I love most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.”
“You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of fear and self-doubt.”
“Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you, too, will keep encountering challenges. It is a blessing to be able to survive them, to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other—to be in a position to make the climb up life’s mountain, knowing that the summit still lies ahead. And every experience is a valuable teacher.”
“I know for sure that what we dwell on is who we become—as a woman [and man] thinks, so she [and he] is. If we absorb hour upon hour of images and messages that don’t reflect our magnificence, it’s no wonder we walk around feeling drained of our life force. If we tune in to dozens of acts of brutality every week, it shouldn’t surprise us that our children see violence as an acceptable way to resolve conflict.”
“One of my greatest lessons has been to fully understand that what looks like a dark patch in the quest for success is the universe pointing you in a new direction. Anything can be a miracle, a blessing, an opportunity if you choose to see it that way.”
“There is one irrefutable law of the universe: We are each responsible for our own life.”
"What I know for sure is that there is no strength without challenge, adversity, resistance, and often pain. The problems that make you want to throw up your hands and holler “Mercy!” will build your tenacity, courage, discipline, and determination.”
“Whether you flounder or flourish is always in your hands—you are the single biggest influence in your life. Your journey begins with a choice to get up, step out, and live fully.”
“Whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision, I ask myself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid of making a mistake, feeling rejected, looking foolish, or being alone? I know for sure that when you remove the fear, the answer you’ve been searching for comes into focus.”
“He who dies with the most toys is still dead.”
"I hope you aren’t so wrapped up in nonessential stuff that you forget to really enjoy yourself—because this moment is about to be over.”
“No matter what challenge you may be facing, you must remember that while the canvas of your life is painted with daily experiences, behaviors, reactions, and emotions, you’re the one controlling the brush. If I had known this at 21, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and self-doubt. It would have been a revelation to understand that we are all the artists of our own lives—and that we can use as many colors and brushstrokes as we like.”
"You’re not the same woman [or man] you were a decade ago; if you’re lucky, you’re not the same woman [or man] you were last year. The whole point of aging, as I see it, is change. If we let them, our experiences can keep teaching us about ourselves. I celebrate that. Honor it. Hold it in reverence. And I’m grateful for every age I’m blessed to become.”
“The ultimate in being healthy is to operate at full throttle—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s being alert, feeling alive and connected. And if you look at your life as a circle and all its aspects (family, finance, relationships, work, among others) as sections of it, you’ll see that if one part is malfunctioning, it will affect the whole.”
And here's her list of top 20 things she knows for sure:
1. What you put out comes back all the time, no matter what. (This is my creed.)
2. You define your own life. Don't let other people write your script.
3. Whatever someone did to you in the past has no power over the present. Only you give it power.
4. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. (A lesson from Maya Angelou.)
5. Worrying is wasted time. Use the same energy for doing something about whatever worries you.
6. What you believe has more power than what you dream or wish or hope for. You become what you believe.
7. If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that will be enough. (From the German theologian and humanist Meister Eckhart.)
8. The happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give.
9. Failure is a signpost to turn you in another direction.
10. If you make a choice that goes against what everyone else thinks, the world will not fall apart.
11. Trust your instincts. Intuition doesn't lie.
12. Love yourself and then learn to extend that love to others in every encounter.
13. Let passion drive your profession.
14. Find a way to get paid for doing what you love. Then every paycheck will be a bonus.
15. Love doesn't hurt. It feels really good.
16. Every day brings a chance to start over.
17. Being a mother is the hardest job on earth. Women everywhere must declare it so.
18. Doubt means don't. Don't move. Don't answer. Don't rush forward.
19. When you don't know what to do, get still. The answer will come.
20. "Trouble don't last always." (A line from a Negro spiritual, which calls to mind another favorite: This, too, shall pass.)
I am first and foremost a husband to my amazing wife and a father to our sweet daughter and little boy.