Health is deeply personal.
And complex – it’s determined by an interaction of your individual characteristics, lifestyle and the physical, social and economic environment that you inhabit. Most health experts agree that these wider determinants of health, as they are known, are significantly more important than healthcare services when it comes to getting and staying well.
And research backs this up. Estimates suggest that around 45% of our health is determined by our social circumstances and environmental exposure, 40% by our health behaviour patterns and up to 15% by clinical healthcare services¹.
Given that as much as 85% of our health is about what happens outside of your doctor’s office, it’s easy to see why what works for one person, in terms of treatment or advice, might not work for another, and why effective healthcare cannot be one-size-fits-all. That’s why our goal at The Thrive Practice is to give you the tools you need to help you take action on improving your health, and that starts with answering your most pressing questions on wellness.
Here are a few we get asked often, centring on personalised healthcare.
What does personalised healthcare look like?
Personalised healthcare is about moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach that is so prevalent in healthcare, to an approach that seeks to understand how and why your symptoms or conditions have occurred, and what works to restore health, by tailoring solutions that address the root cause of illness for each individual.
We are all unique. So the only way to ensure that healthcare is effective is for it to be personalised – to get a deep understanding of the individual and the places and spaces where they live, learn, earn and play.
So what does that look like in practice?
It’s a health practitioner who takes the time to get to know you, as well as your medical and social history.
It’s a health practitioner who asks you what symptoms you’re experiencing and how it affects your quality of life – and then listens and takes interest in your answers.
It’s a health practitioner who works with you to develop a particular treatment approach that works for you, and empowers you with strategies and tools to not only treat your symptoms and conditions but to prevent illness in the future. And when you combine this in-depth understanding of the individual and their life with cutting-edge laboratory testing, you get a big-picture view that connects the dots on what may have contributed to the individual’s current health and the points of leverage that may help to resolve those issues.
How does non-personalised healthcare compare?
The current healthcare model is non-personalised care. From a patient perspective, this type of care feels very different. Patients often report being treated as a “number” or a “diagnosis” rather than as a person, that they often feel as if they are on a conveyor belt passed between different specialists, and that clinicians make decisions behind closed doors without their input.
There are a number of reasons why this is more likely to occur in non-personalised healthcare services, these include:
The Disease-Focused Service Orientation
Healthcare and the system of medicine practised by most doctors is oriented toward acute care. That is, the diagnosis and treatment of injury or illness that is of a short duration and generally, in need of urgent care, like appendicitis, viral infection or broken leg.
This neatly fits the way health systems are set up, allowing the patients to go straight to Accident and Emergency or be referred by their GP or family doctor to a hospital-based specialist for further investigation or treatment.
This setup doesn’t, however, work well for complex chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Research suggests that these conditions are the result of an interaction between human genetics and environmental and lifestyle factors².
This brings me to the second reason.
The Research-Practice Gap
There is a huge gap between research and the way medicine is practised. In fact, the chasm between emerging research in basic health sciences and integration into medical practice is enormous – as long as 50 years – particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
Let’s take tobacco smoking and lung cancer as an example.
Back in 1950, Richard Doll and Anthony Bradford Hill published a paper on smoking and lung cancer. Their large-scale epidemiological study, published in the British Medical Journal, interviewed 5,000 patients in British hospitals and found that of the 1,357 men with lung cancer, 99.5% were smokers – leading the scientists to conclude that smoking was an important cause of lung cancer3.
This research was followed up in 1954 with another study by the pair that showed higher death rates in smokers, compared to non-smokers. The paper concluded that lung cancer could not be attributed to pollution exposure. And yet, it wasn’t until 1962 that the Royal College of Physicians, in the UK, highlighting the associated health problems of smoking, recommended stricter laws on the sale and advertising of tobacco products. Meanwhile across the pond, in 1964, many doctors including the US Surgeon General were also highlighting the danger of cigarette smoking to the public4.
Both of these denouncements of cigarettes – a complete 180, since doctors were used by the tobacco industry to encourage smoking – were the first in a series of steps, still being taken some 60 years later, to reduce the impact of tobacco on human health.
The impact of smoking (the behaviour) was also a clear example of the importance of lifestyle and behaviours when it comes to health, which brings me to my final point.
A one-size-fits-all approach
The acute-care, disease-focused approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic diseases. In most cases, it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual, or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s fast-paced lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society (and sadly, now developing countries).
In addition, most doctors are not adequately, if at all, trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic conditions and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, sleep and exercise to both treat and prevent these conditions.
Research and clinical guidelines recognise and support the safety and effectiveness of using lifestyle modifications, or what’s become known as lifestyle medicine in improving and transforming health outcomes – although more and more are recognising this and we’re seeing it in the public domain in shows like Doctor in the House and The Food Hospital5, it’s still not commonplace in most health systems.
It’s imperative to understand and acknowledge the role an individual’s lifestyle and circumstances play in their health. Without this, health practitioners run the risk of fixing an individual’s health and then sending them back into the circumstances that led to their condition in the first place.
How can The Thrive Practice help me reach my goals with personalised care?
At The Thrive Practice, we understand that there’s no one solution for every health concern, which is why when it comes to finding out what’s going on in your body and how best to address it, we’ve got your back.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never given much thought to your lifestyle’s effect on your health. But as we’ve seen, lifestyle and behaviour account for a massive 85% of your health status, and our personalised and holistic approach to healthcare could radically improve your quality of life
We know that what works for one person might not work for you, and that’s why we tailor our solutions specifically to your needs. Our functional lab tests allow you to see exactly what’s going on in your body so we can tailor our solutions specifically to you and your needs. The personalised health plans we develop with clients use lifestyle medicine – taking all of your lifestyle factors into consideration and working to find a solution that works for you.
Our former client Lauren experienced this firsthand when she sought out personalised lifestyle medicine after years of IBS symptoms, depleted energy levels, and a stunted social life. Within four months of starting with us, she had already seen relief from her symptoms, citing increased energy levels. She was able to rejoin activities like hiking with friends and family who had been concerned about her well-being for years.
Start your wellness journey today – don’t keep waiting and suffering.
Want to learn more about getting personalised support to reach your health goals, whether it’s rebalancing your hormones, restoring your gut health or an overarching wellness plan? Click here to learn about our programmes.
- Source: McGinnis, J.M., Williams-Russo, P. and Knickman, J.R. (2002) The case for more active policy attention to health promotion. Health Affairs 21 (2) pp.78-93).
- Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28523941/
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2038856/pdf/brmedj03566-0003.pdf).
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/history/index.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Ftobacco%2Fdata_statistics%2Fsgr%2Fhistory%2Findex.htm
- Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rcjdb, https://www.channel4.com/press/news/food-hospital