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  • Whitney Joy Dunlap

My View from the Weeds: The Growing Inaccessibility of Healthcare and How Herbalism Can Help

This post was originally published in HWBCO's monthly column, My View from the Weeds, for the Columbus Free Press, February 2019 Issue

In a society where world population is on the rise and citizens are increasingly connected through technology, theorists claim the infamous “six degrees of separation” has narrowed to “three degrees.” How many individuals know someone who has battled cancer, struggled with diabetes, dealt with seizures or contracted HIV? Likely everyone reading this knows at least one person dealing with one (or more) of these severe health concerns. The need for consistent access to healthcare increases significantly when combining those challenges with environmental factors such as: pollution, pesticides, volatile chemicals and shrinking biodiversity. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in eight deaths worldwide is linked to air pollution exposure.

The human body is a machine, just like a car. Without regular oil changes or maintenance, the likelihood of a breakdown becomes imminent. Advancements in agriculture and modern medicine provide the building blocks for healthier populations. Yet, even with these resources, much of the industrialized world still struggles with severe health concerns and disease. So how is it that even in the wealthiest of nations, optimal health is a pipe dream that many do not achieve? The current state of the global system leaves much to be desired when it comes to healthcare. Insurance premiums continue to increase, as do the cost of prescriptions, copays and procedures. Meanwhile, the ever-growing cost of resources needed to survive on this planet serves as a challenge worldwide.

Even citizens who have comprehensive health coverage are facing hurdles that prevent them from achieving optimal wellness. While someone with chronic pain may be covered through insurance for a doctor’s visit, they may not be covered for regular massages or physical therapy. Many services that are shown to improve quality of life and improve health (i.e. nutrition, acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies) are not covered by standard health insurance. Far too often, patients treated under the umbrella of “permitted” healthcare services still do not see the improvements in their conditions that they are seeking. A consumer-minded approach to health places an unnecessary burden on the majority of the global population. Wealth inequality greatly contributes to disparities in access to vital healthcare services. Developing nations and marginalized populations are hit the hardest by these imbalances. Yet, in our current state, the growing inaccessibility of healthcare is not dependent on income barriers. According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), “small” out of pocket spending can cause hardship for all income levels. As wealth inequality continues to grow, many middle to low income families go into financial distress because of health treatments. For example, a diabetic patient needing insulin may no longer be able to afford their daily medicine, forcing them to stop refilling their prescription or go into debt in order to stay alive. The same story applies to many conditions and diseases affecting large populations of people across borders. The current paradox: to survive in our consumer-driven world, one must have enough money to pay into a system that views health as a commodity. This is the difference between “health” care vs. “wellness” care. The latter is a concept widely recognized and accepted by holistic, herbal and alternative medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and ancient practices of healing all integrate a whole-body approach, where health is a state of being. These ways of healing are far older than our modern healthcare system. At the core, these practices allow for more sustainable wellness, due to preventative measures and consistent evaluation of what is going into the body. Instead of treating symptoms, ancient healing techniques treat the whole system. The beautiful interconnected machine – that is the human body – begins to hum into synergy when using plant-based healing tools. In many cases, herbs work gently to restore function across multiple systems. Ironically most modern pharmaceuticals were derived from plant-based sources. However, the connection to these plants has all but been forgotten in our current conversation about medicine. Using ancient wisdom as a guide, many herbalists hope to bridge the gap between past, present and future healthcare systems. The Central Ohio Chapter of Herbalists Without Borders is here to serve the communities that lack access to the fundamental care that they so desperately need. The People’s Clinic, coming up on February 17th will feature local herbal & massage practitioners. Their services and an inventory of herbal remedies will be available to those who attend on a sliding-scale. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. The greater mission of health justice for all people is far more important than profit. February People’s Clinic: Sunday, February 17 - 4:30-6:30pm 3007 Calumet Street (near Weber), Clintonville Please RSVP here: https://lilykunning.wixsite.com/hwbco Whitney Joy Dunlap is a budding herbalist, plant enthusiast, green activist, urban gardener and freelance artist, living in Columbus, Ohio. Her latest passion is plant identification and exploring edible and medicinal weeds. She is the creative force behind Planetary Gypsy Herbals, a new brand of botanical remedies launching 2019. For more information you can follow her on Instagram @planetarygypsy or email her at theplanetarygypsy@gmail.com.

Appears in Issue:  February 2019 issue

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We are the Central Ohio chapter of the international non-profit, Herbalists Without Borders. We work to make people's medicine (herbalism) and food justice accessible to all. 

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