How Can Pharma Help?
We all recognize the significance and influence of pharmaceutical companies. Not only have they done an excellent job of keeping many of us alive past our expiration dates, they have made it possible to live longer lives with quality, positivity and happiness. It’s true. We often paint them as greedy or even malevolent - and there have certainly been some bad actors - but on the whole, we owe them a debt of gratitude.
They Can Do More
Pharmaceutical companies not only have our attention, they have the resources to make changes wherever they see fit to focus their energies. There are certainly lots of needs in our cancer patient community and nearly all can and should be influenced by pharmaceutical companies. Number one on my list is : Access to information, resources, and proactive enablers for healthy and active lifestyles before, during and after treatment. In short, pharma, don’t just tell us to exercise. Help us get there.
Benefits Of A Healthy Lifestyle
The quality of life improvement alone is enough to warrant including resources at every patient summit, support meetings and doctor's visits. Articles and cheerleading is important, but most patients need more. They need resources that are easier to access, and sometimes they need active coaching, counseling, and interaction.
Blood cancers affect people of every age and from every socioeconomic demographic, but the average age of multiple myeloma patients is around 64 years. Everyone ages differently, of course, and we all have different backgrounds, but often as we age we experience challenges to our health that come with the miles. Loss of cartilage in joints, lowered metabolism, decreased hormone production, and decreased bone health are normal in otherwise healthy adults. Sedentary lifestyles, unexpected life events, and unhealthy diets are also things that make purposefully active routines challenging.
With cancer, additional challenges to a healthy lifestyle crop up, and they aren’t for the faint of heart. Bone pain, fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and loss of strength or balance are just a few. It’s not just the cancer itself. Treatment has side effects that can be tougher than just dealing with the underlying disease.
Living with cancer is hard, it takes a lot of commitment to get well, stay well, and live a life. Purposefully moving is often the last thing on a cancer patient’s mind. Motivation often needs a lot of help.
All of us are at least aware of ways in which we could do better. Even those of us in healthcare or fitness industries struggle with eating right every day, and putting our bodies through the motions necessary to stay strong and feel good. Life has a tendency to creep up on us.
I am an active member of my local YMCA.
I have all the right workout clothing and shoes.
I have bicycles and swim gear.
I know many people in the fitness and sports world.
I make an effort to eat well and encourage my family to make health a priority.
I have participated in endurance sports for nearly 35 years.
I am a certified personal trainer, I lead an organization advocating for healthy lifestyles, I have cancer, and I admit - I fail to adhere to my own stated values more often than I succeed.
So how hard is it for others when they have to navigate it by themselves, without easy access and nobody to coach them through challenges as they come up?
There are more things that pharmaceutical companies can do that would benefit their patients, their research and the world. Here’s a short list:
Promote active lifestyles directly to patients;
Encourage healthcare providers to “prescribe” healthy lifestyles;
Increase access to fitness and active lifestyle resources by funding telehealth/telemedicine programs for patients at low or no cost;
Connect healthcare professionals such as physical therapists, trainers, coaches, occupational therapists, kinesiologists, nurse practitioners and specialist MDs in every region who can implement solutions and can interact directly with patients.
If education, motivation, cost and geography are the major obstacles to healthier, more active, and ultimately happier patients, Pharma can be a part of the solution. Let’s have a conversation.
Keep Moving Forward