It is with the utmost respect that I write this open letter to the new COVID Task Force.
You have been charged with a massive responsibility. The virus is out of control, and best efforts to date have not caused enough of our citizens to embrace the challenge at hand. Whether it’s doubting the scientific process, political hubris, or just lack of awareness or understanding, if something doesn’t change, we face fatality statistics the likes of which we have never before seen.
As with many seemingly unsolvable problems, the answers only reveal themselves when you ask the right questions. “How do we defeat COVID” directs us toward magic bullets, miracle drugs and protective vaccines. Unfortunately, even optimistically, we are months or years away from being able to deliver on this promise, and by that time hundreds of thousands more of our neighbors may perish.
But what if we ask a different question? Out of ten million reported US cases, 250,000 have died – horrible, yet nine-and-three-quarter million lived. So, who is asking, why do most people survive?
The current approach is designed to be heroic – when someone is afflicted with the virus, use medicines and technology to treat them, hoping they won’t die, and thankfully most do not. But why?
The common denominator for most who succumb is that they are aging or have an underlying health condition making them more susceptible. So what if we ask, how do we reduce those co-morbidities?
It’s as if you are lifeguards by the river, spotting people drowning, and pulling them out to safety – but if there are too many of them, your ability to rescue them gets saturated, and you can’t save them all. But do we grasp why so many are floundering? Could they be jumping in toward their own demise?
With over half of our population overweight or obese, tens of millions suffering from diabetes, heart disease and cancer, much of which may be at least somewhat preventable, why isn’t any attention being directed toward lifestyle decision-making as a necessary factor in stemming this tide? Small corrections in diet, exercise, posture and stress reduction should have a profound impact on their mortality – just look at the science, heathier people tend not to die. We can do something about that.
It’s not new that a dedicated wellness routine adds longevity and quality of life – it’s just more obvious now because the circumstances are so dire, illuminating the chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Wellness professionals have spent decades exploring best practices for health – nutritionists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, personal trainers and yoga teachers among others – please invite them into this conversation, to educate people on how to thrive. If we don’t start asking these questions, it falls to the pharmaceutical industry to invent, make and distribute their products, without enough time to vet them and be sure of their ultimate impact, before we inject them into our seniors and our kids.
Not instead of, but in addition to, let’s have some experts talk about the proactive habits each of us can develop to accept personal accountability, to get healthier, not just to try not to get sick. Masking, social distancing, staying out of crowds, it all makes sense on the defense – but where’s our offense?
Our leaders must inspire us to become a healthier nation, because there will be other pandemics and other mad dashes for a cure – but what if when that happens, we’ve already spent years enhancing our lifestyles, leading the world, not just in avoiding illness but in generating wellness? It’s possible, if we work together to communicate the right message. COVID or no COVID, common sense and self-discipline could pull us back from the abyss – it could be as simple as each family improving their odds by instituting viable strategies for staying healthy and well. Our future may depend on it.
Dennis Perman DC, for The Masters Circle Global