I helped treat the 1st COVID-19 patient in New Jersey. It provided a teachable moment.
By Ron Weiss, M.D.
First posted on April 26, 2020 in NJ.com
I am the doctor who initially encountered James Cai, New Jersey’s first COVID-19 patient, in urgent care on the evening of March 2. I was placed in quarantine for two weeks, and since then I have returned to my 16-hour urgent care shifts. These days I see scores of very sick COVID-19 patients, many of them with hypertension, asthma, obesity, diabetes, kidney and cardiovascular disease — the chronic illnesses that affect 60% of all adult Americans. We know these underlying diseases increase the risk of severe illness and death for COVID-19 patients.
Enter the teachable moment, a phenomenon well-recognized and used by all experienced physicians to improve patient outcomes by influencing patient behaviors. It is a fleeting, spontaneous opportunity that allows a clinician to provide important insight into a contemplative patient. The patient, hopefully, more mindful of his or her circumstances, can evolve from a stage of contemplation to action and make positive behavioral changes.
With each of these patients, I spend a few minutes explaining the role of diet in treating and reversing chronic illnesses and how plant-based diets lower mortality rates from all causes. At first, most people are taken aback. I imagine patients are thinking: I came here with a fever and shortness of breath … why is this doctor talking to me about kale, garlic and mushrooms? But then I go on to explain how whole plant foods have been demonstrated to boost antibody production and enable white blood cells to better defend the body against viruses. At the same time, whole plant foods calm the molecular network that directs the immune system, preventing cytokine storms. Cytokine storms are believed to be responsible for the tidal of respiratory failure associated with COVID-19. As I leave the exam room, many patients seem to be grateful for the information.
As all physicians are taught, it is primary prevention-measures that prevent the onset of illness before the disease process ever begins, that is the most effective way for people to stay healthy. This philosophy is embodied in Ben Franklin’s adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Well, how could we have prevented this pandemic? There is strong evidence that COVID-19 emerged from a live animal market in China. This is why Dr. Anthony Fauci called for the immediate closure of such markets. The last several decades have seen an exponential uptick in the incidence of serious zoonotic diseases, prompting the World Health Organization to state that in the 21st century, infectious pandemics will pose as much a threat to humanity as climate change.
Consider this: seasonal influenza in the United States has a mortality rate of less than 0.1%. The 1918 H1N1 pandemic, which originated from birds, was the most lethal pandemic ever known until COVID-19, with a mortality rate of at least 2.5%. So far, COVID-19 case mortality rates seem to be ranging from 2.3% in China to 7.2% in Italy. It is thought that one day, avian flu, also known as H5N1, will cause a pandemic resulting in 60% mortality rates.
It is our food system, particularly the unnatural practices used to meet the ferocious and growing demand for animal foods worldwide, that is now thought to be the main generator of these emerging pandemic infections. This same food system plays a primary role in the causation of climate change and loss of habitat and biodiversity.
The EAT-Lancet Commission was charged with identifying a pathway to a healthy and sustainable diet for the year 2050, when the planet’s population will number 10 billion. A year ago, the commission, co-chaired by Dr. Walter Willett, one of the world’s most esteemed public health figures, announced that it is possible to save the world from annihilation, but only if we adopt a plant-based diet produced within planetary boundaries. This is the primary preventative action the global community must take to head off the next pandemic, as well as other catastrophic events that threaten life on Earth.
This pandemic is a teachable moment, not only for someone who is overweight or hypertensive, but for our physicians, farmers, policy makers, philanthropists, and eaters … for us all. Now is our moment.
_______________________ Ron Weiss M.D., the founder of Ethos Primary Care, offers an evidence-based, food-as-medicine approach to optimizing wellness, the reversal and prevention of illness, and healing from chronic illness. Dr. Weiss is dual board-certified in internal medicine and lifestyle medicine, and a primary care physician in New Jersey. He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Weiss is also the founder of Ethos Farm Project (EFP), which was a semifinalist in the Rockefeller Foundation 2050 Food System Vision Prize competition. He has been featured in top media, including The New York Times, The New York Post, The Today Show, New Jersey Monthly, and the feature-length documentary, Eating You Alive, directed by Paul David Kennamer Jr.
Ethos Farm’s USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO bounty is available to patients and the local community through Ethos Primary Care‘s Doctor’s Farm Market self-serve Farm stand. It even boasts its own herding dog named Maya. To learn more:https://www.ethosprimarycare.com/
The above opinion piece was first posted on April 26, 2020 in NJ.com, the digital news content provider and website. Read the original article here: NJ.com