My body, myself, our problem: Health and wellness in modern times

Humans and Health: The New Deal

In 1970, the Boston Women's Health Book Collective published the first edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, a book intended to inspire and empower women to become their own "health experts" through education, access to information, and open discussions of issues related to health. In the four decades since, the extent to which the relationship between humans and their health has evolved is astounding. In part, that's because increased knowledge and new tools and technologies have removed some of the mystery and unthinking acquiescence from the healthcare equation. Thanks to the Internet and social media, we are no longer at the mercy of the medical profession; we can research our illnesses, hunt for alternative treatment options, and find out whether another practitioner might be better suited for our care.

Our changing relationship with our health also has to do with the nature of today's ailments. As medical science advances, dying is increasingly perceived less as a fate to be accepted than as a failure of disease management. For the most part, people in prosperous parts of the world aren't succumbing to disasters. Nor are they dying in infancy or being cut down by communicable disease or infection in their primes. As communities live longer, death increasingly comes from the malfunctioning and decay of body systems: cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune conditions, and degenerative diseases. In a number of these cases, lifestyle plays at least as great a role as heredity or chance. And that changes everything about how people regard, prevent, and treat physical disorders.