Jess Parsons

Jess Parsons

Posted May 17, 2011

Published in Health

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Health education with Dr T. Colin Campbell

Read More: doctor, dr esselstyn, dr mcdougall, dr t colin campbell, education, fad diets, food industry, food labels, John Robbins, New Zealand, nutrition, plant based diet

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I'm well on my way to finishing the first of three segments to the Certificate of Plant Based Nutrition, content thanks to Dr T Colin Campbell.  

It's been rewarding to learn what Dr Campbell has chosen as the essence of his message and to discuss it with the tutors and other people with similar interests.

Course evaluation not only requires knowledge about nutrition facts but includes answering questions about nutrition as it exists with real people in the real world.  I'll share with you the first one and my answer (which has been accepted).

There's been lots of great discussion on this question - what would you add?


Based on Dr. Campbell's State of Health lecture, the eater bears much of the responsibility for their health outcomes. Some people are concerned that sharing this information may come across as "blaming the victim". Describe your strategy for sharing this information in a way you think would be most likely to provoke interest in the merits of a plant-based diet and least likely to stimulate a dismissive or defensive reaction. Include specific information from the lecture that you think would be particularly motivating.

My Answer

I disagree with the stated premise that the eater bears much of the responsibility for the diseases.

As John Robbins wrote in his preface to The China Study, we live in a toxic food environment. Because the eater is primarily presented with toxic food choices by food suppliers, and the government and medical professionals are generally complicit with those food suppliers, I would place the government, the food suppliers, and medical professionals at the head of the line to bear the responsibility.

Personal choice exists, but the choices made are always in a larger context of choices available.

It is still true that sharing information about healthier choices is often perceived as blaming the victim.

A positive strategy to share the message

Countries like New Zealand have a different (and less expensive) medical model than the US, but our medical model is also based on allopathic care: drugs, operations, doctors, hospitals. As eating and other lifestyle patterns mimic those of the US, so do the health problems and the wasted money on ineffective allopathic care.

Personal strategy

To lead someone to a place they didn't know they wanted to go, first go where they are, then show them how your path makes them into the person they want to be. Often, that person will then choose to join you!

My most successful strategy for discussing plant-based eating is via others' self interest: the health and financial aspects. These resonate across all demographics. Everyone understands the drive to be healthier, thinner, and financially secure, and admires anyone who shows success in these areas. Everyone would love to know that frightening diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke can actually be conquered.

The environmental and animal ethics aspects of plant-based eating are more likely to alienate than attract - people often resist the suggestion they should be responsible for impacts beyond the scope of their own person. They are more comfortable with a selfish motivation than a larger view - for themselves or others. Interestingly, most don't see that when you (selfishly) choose to improve your own health and financial situation, you also improve the world, and conversely, when you help your environment and its other residents, you also help yourself.

But I also believe personal interactions alone are not a successful strategy for spreading the word about plant-based nutrition. As in my introduction, every person in our society has been subjected to countless authoritative messages that contradict the plant-based message. Most people hearing a personal success story, no matter how amazing, will filter it through "what is already known" and discard it. Perhaps they might take a story seriously enough to discuss it with their doctor - who is likely to discourage them from fad diets that avoid any food groups entirely.

For successful penetration of the plant-food diet message, a larger social strategy is needed.

Social strategy

The larger social strategy must also exploit the natural tendency to ask "what's in it for me"?

Government intervention

Governments must discover that there is more value in a healthy population than in selling unhealthy food and then drugs to the sick population. This might be done by presenting statistics such as Dr Campbell does in Chapters 8, 9, and 10, as well as estimating lost value from production from those sick people.

They must be allies of health-supporting food production instead of toxic food and drugs, by investing our tax money into healthy food suppliers and their public promotion.

They must legislate in favour of healthy food instead of the reverse, and when necessary, ensure that medical professionals are promoting a healthy diet as a strong part of health care.

Food suppliers

As well as government investment in healthy food suppliers and regulation of toxic food suppliers, as consumers we need to prioritise our spending as far as possible to keep healthy food suppliers in business and starve out the toxic food suppliers. Every food decision we make needs to have health as a major factor.

Clear food labelling (a suggestion is posted here) would go far to enable real consumer choice at the purchase level, as well as provide an incentive for food suppliers to avoid toxic food which would look bad on a label.

Health professionals

Medical professionals must be involved in this message. The financial incentives from drug companies to doctors must be prevented and toxic food ads should never be tolerated in a medical environment. As it is known that nutritional therapy works, what about financial incentives for doctors to cure patients using nutritional therapy?

I am heartened by the proliferation of involved doctors in the time I have been involved with this movement - McDougall, Esselstyn, Campbell, and more. These doctors use practical techniques to show people how to choose food and even cook it.

Now, we even see some encouraging signs that the government might legislate so doctors must study nutrition to practice. Perhaps this course could be required for their first year!