The ideas are generally good: holistically treating and preventing diseases, starting from lifestyles; customizing or tailoring treatments to individual. The troubles are also obvious: preventing diseases is a lot harder than treating them because lifestyles are harder to change, to monitor and to pinpoint causal effect. Thus tailoring treatment to one requires much work on individual and then segment levels. With IT tech it has new hope to accumulate data on each person to figure out cause and effects.
In his new book, The End of Illness, Agus argues that the key to a radical reduction in illness is to prevent the unhealthy lifestyles that allow diseases to thrive. And while the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” dates back to Benjamin Franklin, the idea is timeless–even if our current approach to medicine doesn’t always reflect it.
The solutions, he argues, are cutting-edge “proteomics” technologies that allow researchers to customize medical treatments, a insurance system that penalizes unhealthy behavior, and eating and workout habits that are more akin to the active, whole-food lifestyles of ancient man.
The philosophy also extends to nutrition and diet. For instance, we combat weight loss by driving to the gym to walk on a treadmill–and then return to hunch over laptops for hours on end. “Sitting at your desk is akin to smoking a cigarette,” he says.
As an experiment in data collection, Agus has placed chips inside the pain pills of his patients, which alert him, by cellphone, if they’re ingested. If a patient happens to up his dosage, and explains to the doctor “‘my pain’s getting worse,’ we can intervene in the cancer then vs. when they’re come back to see me again arbitrarily in three months,” he says.