Book Review: “Why Our Health Matters”

In 2009, the book Why Our Health Matters by Dr. Andrew Weil is about his views of the what is wrong with the health care system and how to fix it.

Dr. Andrew Weil is a graduate of Harvard Medical School. He has written numerous best-selling books and have been on TV specials. He was on the Time Magazine cover in 1997 and 2005 and had been recognized by Time Magazine as among one of the most influential people.

Dr. Weil “believes strongly and passionately that every American has a right to good health care that is effective, accessible, and affordable, that serves you from infancy through old age, that allows you to go to practitioners and facilities of your choosing, and that offers a broad range of therapeutic options.”[p4]

Dr. Weil says “The priorities and motives of those who manage for-profit medical enterprises are fundamentally at odds with those of physicians, patients, and good medical practice. … I am convinced that our health insurance system should not be fiercely profit driven.”[p25]

If the main objective of insurance companies is to make money, then of course they will have an incentive to restrict coverage and deny claims while increasing premiums.

Three Myths of the Health Care System

Dr. Weil speaks of three myths:[p11]

Myth #1: It is a myth that because America has the most expensive health care, it is the best.
The reality is that many developed countries rank far better than the United States in many measures.

Myth #2: It is a myth that medical technology is the single greatest assets.
Dr. Weil believes that we over-use our technology which drives up costs.

Myth #3: It is a myth that our medical schools produce the world’s finest physicians.

Dr. Weil believes that there are gaps in the medical educational system such as that they do not focus enough on nutrition and mind-body integrative medicine.

United States Ranks Poorly

In year 2000, the World Health Organization rated the health care system of many countries. They ranked United States at number 37. United State was just behind Costa Rica in the rankings. And United State just ranked one above Slovenia. According to this table, France, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Austria, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Chile, Israel, Colombia and many more countries all ranked better than the United States.

United States Spends the Most

However, it is true that United States spends more per capita on health care than any other country.
Dr. Weil attribute this fact to two things …

1) We do not focus enough on prevention. We intervene only when the disease has been established.

2) Over-dependence on high-tech interventions.[p9] Also, doctors often run expensive scans in fear of lawsuits.[p31]

Cost of medical care has become the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.[p7]

In 2007, our total health care spending is $2.3 trillion which amounts to $7,600 for every American. Our health care represent 16% of the the United States GDP and is predicted to be 20% of GDP within 6 or 7 years. For France and Canada, their health care represents only 9% of their GDP.[p18]

Starbucks spends more for the health care of their workers than for the beans to make their coffees. [p22]

Examples of some of the costs…

For those who have not been through America’s health care system, here are some examples of the amount of average cost cited in the book [p17]…
• Prescription medicine: $70
• Hospital room per day: $1700
• Adult visiting emergency room: $700
• Uncomplicated hospital birth: $8000
• Cardiac stress test: $1900
• Heart Attach: $45,000 to $50,000
• Initial treatment for common cancers: $40,000

Examples of Doctor’s Salaries

Page 37 gives some salary figures of doctor’s and you can see why many opt to become specialists instead of family practitioners. These are annual numbers…
• Family practitioners: $175,000
• General Internists: $204,000
• Radiologists: $911,000
• Orthopedic surgeons: $852,000
• Cardiovascular surgeons: $1,352,000

Medicines that Dr. Weil Believes In

Dr. Weil believes in a holistic approach to treatment and prevention that includes …
• Manual medicine — this includes professional massage therapy
• Botanical and Chinese medicine — including herbal formulas and acupuncture
• Mind/Body medicine — including stress reduction
• Nutritional medicine — obesity (which contributes to hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer) can be partially addressed by eating right and avoiding pro-inflammatory foods.
• Dietary Supplements — useful insurance against gaps in diet.
• Exercise — it not only burn calories, but raises mood by increasing endorphins and dopamine, decrease chance of age-related dementia, and increase cells sensitivity to insulin and reducing risk of type-2 diabetes.


What we eat is just as big of a factor as how much we eat. The rise in obesity is caused by the United State’s food system replacing whole natural foods with refined manufactured food with added things like high fructose corn syrup. The latter is what is cheap and available and so that is what we eat. Dr. Weil says he has a hard time finding “real food” in a convenience store. In a supermarket, he can only find real food in the periphery.
This change in diet is causing metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Obesity is linked to more than 30 medical conditions including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and osteoarthritis.
In order to move to preventative care and reduce obesity, Dr. Weil believes that Americans need to improve their health literacy.

Last Chapter

In the last chapter, Dr. Weil writes “Throughout this book I have insisted that a free democratic society must guarantee basic health care to all its citizens and that this must not be thwarted by medicine that operates in a predominantly for-profit mode, with the collusion of a rapacious insurance industry and a passive government.”