The New York Times recently invited readers to share their opinion on the doctor shortage that will soon face the United States. Dr. Timothy Wycoff submitted his response:
As a practicing family physician for the past 25-plus years, I would say that we do not have a shortage of doctors so much as we, as a nation, have a shortage of healthy habits. My days are filled with taking care of patients with problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol levels that are largely the result of bad eating and little exercise. My “toolbox” consists of a lot of expensive tests and medicines, plus my often frustrating attempts at changing individual behaviors within a culture of toxic, addictive food and an endless variety of labor-saving devices and toys.
Rather than producing (or importing) more doctors for the burgeoning population of the overnourished and underfit, I would suggest that we focus on reining in the food and agriculture industry that dominates our food supply. At the same time we should be promoting more physical activity.
In short: If everyone in this country would eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, 50 percent of the problems that I see daily would not even exist, and I could focus on the diseases and injuries of bad genes and bad luck and just getting older. Doctor shortage solved.
Tim Wycoff, MD