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Rethinking Disease: A 21st Century Paradigm Shift

We are at a point when we’re completely rethinking disease. 

We’re at an extraordinary time in health care.  We’re at a watershed moment in science and medicine.  We are at a point when we’re completely rethinking disease. 

We’re moving from the idea that diseases are things, like bacteria that need to be treated with a drug, like an antibiotic, which was a wonderful paradigm for 20th century illness, but it’s not a good paradigm for chronic lifestyle-driven diseases. 

We’re looking to choose drugs over lifestyle to treat diseases that are really lifestyle-driven illnesses.  

So what’s happening is we’re understanding that for the first time that diseases and the names we give things may not be that important anymore, that diseases really don’t exist the way we think they do, that symptoms are emerging from this complex adaptive system we call human biology.  It’s an ecosystem and we have to understand the body as a network and understand the biological networks and the social networks that are driving our health. 

And, historically, we just tried to find the drug for the bug or the pill for the ill instead of really finding out how to treat the body as a system.  

It’s a paradigm shift that’s as big as Galileo saying the earth was not the center of the universe, as Columbus saying the earth was round, not flat, as Darwin saying that we evolved as species.  So we have a whole different paradigm happening right now that’s moving away from diseases as entities and things in the old paradigm of health.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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