NY Times doctor ignores decades of research

A man who can not control his blood sugar levels (he’s diabetic) comes into a medical clinic with gangrene so aggressive that people in the clinic hallway can smell his rotting flesh. This is the story Dr. Pauline W. Chen writes about in her NY Times Health article, “When Doctor’s Advice is Ignored at Home”. The point of her article is to highlight the idea that taking care of patients only within the walls of the clinic and ignoring what happens when they walk into the real world, is not keeping patients healthy. Here’s what I have to say about this: you are just realizing this!?! Um, hello, look at the health of the American people. 2/3 of our country are overweight, kids are now being diagnosed with diseases due to unhealthy lifestyles usually not seen until old age, and people still smoke. Most people are not listening to what their doctor’s tell them. Clearly, there are other factors at play. For decades, behavioral scientists have understood that health is not as simple as listening to what the doctor says. There are psychological and social factors that play into human behavior and health. For example, if you live in a home where no one in your family or social network exercises, your social gatherings are centered on eating high fat foods, and the only restaurant in a 5 mile radius is a fast food chain, it is unlikely you have the resources necessary to take your doctors advice and lose weight.  This is idea that other factors play into health is called the biopsychosocial (biological – social  – psychological) model. It has been around for decades. It is counter to the traditional reductionist model of health used by doctors. Health psychologists and public health professors have been researching and employing the biopsychosocial model for decades. The fact that a doctor writing for the NY Times is now just understanding that they are not the only factors that play into their patients health? That’s just unacceptable and does not due justice to the medical professionals and health researchers out there that do get it.