27 Sep 2021

A radical shift needed for health system

From Nine To Noon, 9:35 am on 27 September 2021

Our health system is in a losing battle trying to manage rather than prevent disease, says Dr David Beaumont, a former GP and specialist in occupational medicine.

The answer is a radical shift towards empowering people to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, he tells Kathryn Ryan.

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Photo: Supplied

Dr David Beaumont has just released the book Positive Medicine

"My worry is that unless we do something different, changing the [medical] system isn't actually going to achieve anything new. So I'm actually proposing that we change the system beyond the system… we completely change the way doctors and patients interact to move from the doctor-patient relationship to the person-doctor partnership."

"Disruptive innovation in healthcare is actually not starting from where we are and making things a bit better. It's actually starting with a clean slate… and saying okay, if we were to redesign this system what would it look like?"

'Positive Medicine' rethinks the doctor-patient relationship, empowering people patient to take a more active role in their own health.

"Doctors don't fix people, doctors don't cure diseases. Even to prescribe antibiotics to somebody with a chest infection is not actually fixing them. What it's doing is enhancing their body's own ability to heal itself. We heal ourselves. and the responsibility for our health should rest with us.

"Fifty per cent of doctors are burnt out at any one time, right now…. And it's the responsibility that's the drain. This is not a crisis of caring, this is a crisis of responsibility."

Positive medicine also takes a more holistic approach to health and well being, Beaumont says.

"Health is not just physical, it's not just psychological, but it's also about whanau, family, relationships and also spiritual health - what brings meaning and purpose into our lives."

A health model which integrates these things would motivate people to reflect on what they can do for their own health and help them see how health encompasses every part of their lives, he says.

Beaumont recently developed a 4-week programme for Fulton Hogan, in which their Cromwell employees were given the opportunity to reflect on their own individual health and wellbeing.

"We've heard enough about what we need to do [to be healthier]. My focus is on actually helping [people] get out of themselves what's important to them and writing it down on paper."

"[The Fulton Hogan employees] come to the end of the programme and realise it is actually important that they stay fit and healthy to play with their children or their grandchildren. Just because they've got to 40, 45, middle-aged, they're getting a bit overweight, maybe a bit of pre-diabetes actually doesn't mean they can't take control of their own circumstances."

Dr Beaumont is now working with Fulton Hogan to make a 'positive medicine' programme available to the Cromwell community. He hopes The Cromwell Experiment will lead to the development of a programme that can eventually benefit all New Zealanders.