“This section contains a series of eight letters that I wrote to our minister of health a while ago. The main theme was that a lot of money could be saved and outcomes would be better if we focused more on addressing the causes of diseases rather than the symptoms. Dentistry has always focused on prevention as the first plan of action in tackling our diseases.However, what is very interesting is how often dentistry’s arch enemy, sugar, appears as the root cause of many of our modern diseases.”Dr. Murray Hennings D.M.D
August 26, 2019
Honourable Tyler Shandro,
Minister of Health
423 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue NW
Dear Mr. Shandro:
RE: Healthcare Reform
I am so happy to hear that Alberta’s Healthcare system is under new management and that you are starting off fresh by examining what we have done wrong and what we need to change. There is a lot to see. We have a very badly misguided system and it has nearly bankrupted us while our people continue to get sicker and sicker.
In the early 1970’s I was studying in a medical school although I graduated with a DMD degree. While I was there our medical school was visited by a former medical student named Richard Kunis whose sinister message was that the American medical system was far too much under the control and direction of the Medical Industrial Complex and Big Pharma. Both of these groups profit far better when people are sick than they do when people are healthy and therefore a prevention and wellness approach to healthcare is not what they want. While Canada’s healthcare system was only 4 or 5 years old at that time some of my professors were very concerned that our taxpayer funded system could easily be misguided in the same direction.
A while ago I was in a physician’s office and he had a sign on his wall that stated that he would only deal with one problem on any given day. This should be grounds for immediate suspension! This approach to healthcare delivery is just as wrong as you can get.
The correct way to do healthcare is to look at every symptom that the patient has, try to see how they are connected, and finally determine the root cause. Otherwise you are just treating symptoms and you never get anywhere that way. But Big Pharma and the unionized healthcare workers like this system because no one ever gets cured and you have a drug purchasing patient for life. For them the system is working well.
Practitioners of functional medicine have an entirely different approach to healthcare that seeks out the basic cause of medical problems, corrects them, and in many cases cures the problem entirely. Pursuing functional medicine will not keep you in the good graces of Big Pharma or the unionized health care workers but their system has nearly bankrupted us and the functional medicine approach is the only way to fix the problem.
So, what is functional medicine you ask? The attached diagram with “Inflammation” in the center is a very grossly oversimplified explanation of how healthcare needs to be approached. The disorders at the bottom of the diagram are widely considered to be caused by the products of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, interleukins, cytocines, and others. Therefore the correct way to treat these diseases is to treat the causes of the inflammation which you see at the top of the diagram. But we don’t do this. Big Pharma has a pill for every problem at the bottom of the diagram(Generally an anti-inflammatory of some sort.)and of course because you are only treating the symptoms, the patient never gets better and Big Pharma has a customer for life. By properly treating infections in the five main areas at the top of the diagram, we can expect to quietly avoid many of the so-called chronic diseases at the bottom. This is the principle of functional medicine.
Now you might be thinking, “This is all good but we are broke so what can we do right away that will cost us nothing and will save us enough money to balance Alberta’s Budget?” That is a very good question and to answer it we will look at three problems: Type II diabetes, dementia, and autism.
Type II diabetes is a very fast-growing disorder for which we know the one single cause which is our modern high carbohydrate diet. Because we know the cause; we can classify the disease as preventable. Also, unlike dementia and autism, type II diabetes is very treatable and often curable. But if you look at the second diagram, the one with “Diabetes” in the center you will see all of the problems that can result from improperly treated diabetes. So, there is heart disease, dementia, amputations, kidney failure, fatty liver disease, and blindness all caused by a very preventable and very treatable disease. So, what is that costing the taxpayers?
Dementia is not quite as simple but when you realize that dementia is not the result of a single cause but rather 6 or 7 different causes; you are well on your way to preventing and successfully treating this problem. The major known causes of dementia are: Head injuries, severe alcoholism, improperly treated diabetes, infections of dental origin, illicit drugs, improperly prescribed prescription drugs, and vascular problems which result in strokes. Proper treatment of these diseases early on or preventing them entirely can save us a small fortune.
And then there is autism. This is a relatively recent but very fast growing problem.I was in university from 1969 till 1975 and was heavily involved with healthcare study all that time. During those six years I never heard the word autism spoken once. If the disorder existed at all, it was at a rate of about 1 in 10,000 children. Today it is 1 in 36 and getting worse. Some cases are so bad that they can cost nearly $2 million in care over a lifetime. Also, these people will never be taxpayers so there is a lot of money at stake with every case. There are generally two major components to this disorder: major digestive problems and major brain injuries. The functional medicine practitioners do have some success correcting the digestive issues but often the brain problems are an irreversible encephalopathy. So, this disorder is not very treatable but if the most widely held theory about the cause of autism is correct; it will be a very inexpensive problem to prevent.
Last winter I had occasion to have coffee with your fellow MLA Mike Ellis whose background is in the justice system and there was also a lady whose background was in education. I made the comment that if we in healthcare did our job right that their jobs would be a lot simpler. A lot of the challenges plaguing our education system and our justice system have a poorly treated medical problem at their base. Mike agreed with me and said that they knew that the various departments needed to work together better but he said that they just never found a way to do it. Everyone talks about restoring the Alberta Advantage but part of that advantage involves having a strong, healthy, well educated workforce. Unfortunately our children today are neither healthy nor well educated. So you have a huge challenge ahead of you but you also have a huge opportunity.
The great Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road you have to take it.” You can either choose to tinker with the status quo and hope for a better outcome or you can choose to boldly go where no health minister in history has ever dared to go before. You could end up being the greatest health minister of all time. You could be the guy who finally got it right.
If you choose the status quo; I wish you the best of luck going forward. If you find that the functional medicine option is something you would like to investigate further, I offer you a blank cheque of support. I would like to meet with you for about a half hour sometime to tell you more. Also I know several people who are far more knowledgeable than me in these matters who are also willing to share what they know if you are interested.
I wish you great success no matter how you proceed. If I can be of any further assistance, you can get in touch with me at the address above or you can call me at (403) 266-5533.
Dr. Murray Hennings, DMD