Op-Ed: Getting Past Disease to the Science of Wellness

Abridged version by Neal Kaufman, originally written by Leroy Hood appearing in the LA Times


“America was sick before COVID-19 struck. The pandemic has made our national sickness more acute and illustrated the critical importance of “wellness” in preventing disease and optimizing health. We know this because COVID disproportionately impacted people with chronic illness and unhealthy lifestyles.”


This quote is from renowned scientist Leroy Hood, SVP and Chief Science Officer, Providence St. Joseph Health; Chief Strategy Officer, Co-founder and Professor at the Institute for Systems Biology, begins his March 21, 2021 piece in the LA times on the Science of Wellness.


As a scientist who has worked at the leading edge of medicine, engineering and genetics for decades, Dr. Hood is on a quest to give mind and body wellness the scientific rigor and urgency it deserves. He states that “No doctor, policy or breakthrough drug is as effective as “wellness” at minimizing disease and enhancing the length and quality of life.”


We all recognize that our healthcare system is great at fighting disease once it has occurred, but it’s dismal at keeping people healthy proactively. Waiting to treat disease after it emerges is not the answer. Shorter lifespans and diminished quality of life are the result.


In contrast, wellness is the absence of disease in the body, and the most powerful force in human health. While “preventative medicine” seeks earlier detection of already established disease, scientific wellness gives medical providers a new way of treating patients based on a data informed understanding of their personal health.


Each person’s genome, or genetic makeup, is unique. Other factors, including our epigenomes, blood analytes, microbiomes, environmental toxins, diet and lifestyle, contribute in complex but inter-related ways to disease susceptibility and overall health.


In a healthcare system focused on wellness, physicians would spend as much or more time helping patients achieve healthy lifestyles as they currently spend treating patients for preventable or manageable diseases. Using a scientific or quantitative approach to wellness, medical providers will be able to develop tailored interventions based on each patient’s unique genome, blood, gut microbe, diet and digital physiology.


By identifying transitionary states best described as “pre-pre-disease,” wellness-oriented clinicians could prescribe treatments that reverse and heal adverse health conditions before they become pathologic. Through wellness-focused medicine, individual health spans could extend well into the 90s and beyond.


In a world in which predictive, preventative and personalized care is standard practice, people would not only live longer, but be able to lead more satisfying, productive and active lives. No breakthrough drug or treatment could compete with that. And that’s a world within reach today.


Article originally published in the LA Times on Sunday, March 21, 2021, in the Second Opinion column. Read the full article here.


Canary Health® believes in Leroy Hoods philosophy, and offer digital therapeutics in the areas of preventative diabetes, chronic conditions, and caregiver programs so that patients can reach better wellness.


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