TCS: Toxic Culture Syndrome: How to Advance a Culture of Health & Wellbeing

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TCS: Toxic Culture Syndrome: How to Advance a Culture of Health & Wellbeing
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About the Author

Gary J. Machan

Gary J. Machan

Gary Machan serves on the Community Advisory Research Committee for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Through the course of his career he has received several provincial awards including the 2nd Stage of Medicare, Ontario Tobacco Network Innovation Award for Excellence, and Food Champion Award. In addition, Mr. Machan is an associate with the Centre for Inner Freedom where his work was featured by Tom Harpur in his best selling book ‘Finding the Still Point’.

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If you follow the news lately, you would think that our health and wellbeing is determined by doctors. Doctors this and doctors that. Case in point is the recent breakdown in discussions between the Ontario Medical Association and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care accompanied with all the fear mongering and animosity in its wake.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against doctors. Through my work, I have had the privilege of working alongside some extremely dedicated and capable physicians. More of my concern has to do with the huge disconnect between our investments in health and that which we have to show for it at the end of the day.

Just consider,

  1. Sixty percent of all adults (twenty and older) in Canada suffer from one or more chronic diseases;
  2. Fifty percent of teenagers display psychiatric illnesses i.e. 43% increase in prescriptions for Attention Deficit disorders over the past five years;
  3. Anti-depressants are the most prescribed medications for men between the ages of 25 – 45) and women between the ages of 25 and 75.
  4. Over the past fifteen years, Canadians are living longer, but with fewer years of good health.

Clearly, the current formula is not working. In fact, the more we spend on health care, the sicker we have and will continue to become. All of which begs the question WHY? True, our population is aging. But this in no way accounts for the magnitude of the rise of chronic disease, nor why so many more younger people are less well than previous generations.

The real issue has little to do with doctors, or trying to extract greater efficiencies out of our hospitals, which are already amongst the best managed in the world. Rather, what really ails us is the toxicity of our culture, or what might be best thought of as Toxic Culture Syndrome aka TCS.

What do I mean by TCS? Simply stated, Toxic Culture Syndrome occurs when a society has essentially gone off the rails in terms of meeting people’s most basic needs, whether it be for food and shelter, clean air and water, and most importantly, love and belonging. Healthy cultures nurture life. Toxic cultures destroy life.

Bottom line, no amount of spending on health care, such as it is, will result in anything other than more of the same (i.e. increased disease), for the simple reason that the real patient isn’t individuals, but rather our culture as a whole. What is required is a bold vision and interventions designed to remove the toxicity of the soup in which we all swim.

This is the first in what will be a series of articles aimed at advancing a CULTURE OF HEALTH AND WELLBEING. Your feedback, ideas and comments would be deeply appreciated.



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