When I was a kid, there was this incredibly annoying TV commercial for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
This cute (for the early 1980s) young guy is walking down the street, Walkman headphones on, eating a bar of chocolate clearly meant for a family of 8. His contribution to the plot is a hip swagger and the immortal dialogue, “Mmm, chocolate.”
A vivacious and attractive young woman walks in the opposite direction, also oblivious to her surroundings courtesy of headphones, while eating peanut butter out of a carton with her fingers. She intones the parallelism, “Mmm, mmm, peanut butter.”
According to the structure of theatrical spectacle developed by Aristotle, this comprises Act One: Setup.
It raises the provocative question, “What will happen next?” (Spoiler alert: I'm about to tell you.)
Act Two (Conflict) explodes dramatically as these two witless paragons of 1980s pop culture bump into each other, his chocolate bar plunging into her open carton of peanut butter. (Innuendo, anyone?)
The dramatis personae engage in the following memorable lines:
Both: (simultaneously) “Hey!” “Oh!”
She: “Hey, you've got your chocolate in my peanut butter.”
He: (interrupting) ” – got your peanut butter in my chocolate.”
Both: (smiling, removing headphones) “What?”
And now for Act Three: Resolution.
Both: (Taking a bite, and saying reverentially and in unison) “Delicious!”
At which point a creepy older dude peers very closely over their shoulders and waves a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup two-pack at them while they gaze into each other's chocolate bars. The scene ends with them gently bouncing up and down, possibly doing some sort of “boogie” as they consume the rest of the chocolate and peanut butter.
A Thought Experiment
Have you ever considered how tenuous the invention of the peanut butter cup was, if this commercial is an accurate historical portrayal?
I mean, what if they had been paying attention as they sashayed down the busy urban street, and so managed to completely avoid one another?
What if he had been holding a packet of Mint Milanos, and she a jar of anchovy paste?
What if, instead of rudely eating the other person's food without asking, they simply apologized and slunk away, ashamed of their lack of situational awareness and very strange public eating behaviors?
The peanut butter cup as we know it might never have existed!
And Now For Something Completely Different
I don't want to talk about the invention of the peanut butter cup. That would be a completely waste of time.
Instead, I want to talk about two worlds that haven't yet collided:
Value-based healthcare, and lifestyle medicine.
Value-based healthcare is a group of very smart, very good people who believe that the healthcare system is a complete mess largely because of misaligned and opaque incentives. Some examples:
- That doctors are paid to see patients for just a few minutes at a time.
- That patients with high deductible plans are discouraged from getting early treatment that is inexpensive and effective, and instead encouraged to wait until they have a serious condition that requires expensive interventions.
- That health benefits brokers typically get paid by the health insurers as a percentage of the total cost to customers, and so make less money if they negotiate a good deal for an employer or individual.
Lifestyle medicine folks believe that most chronic diseases do not need to exist in the first place. They assert:
- That pharmaceuticals should be a last resort after diet and lifestyle interventions, rather than the first and only thing we do for sick patients.
- That a diet rich in whole foods of plant origin is a more powerful therapeutic in the fight against heart disease than any statin, ACE inhibitor, or beta blocker.
- That physical activity is the world's most useful intervention for just about every condition, from autoimmune disorders to depression.
Can you see how these two groups are pulling in the same direction, toward a more rational and cost-effective healthcare system?
Yet they live, by and large, in two completely separate worlds, never bumping into each other, and never inventing a delicious and synergistic approach.
Introducing Today's Podcast Interview
On today's podcast, I talk with Olivia Kelly, CEO and co-founder of WellStart Health.
She's the first person I've met who lives in both worlds.
Now, as co-founders of WellStart Health, we're shipping them hard. (Forgive me if this is unfamiliar usage of the word “shipping,” which the Urban Dictionary defines as “the act of shoving two fictional characters' heads together and yelling, ‘NOW KISS!'”)
What if the 6-sigma system improvement wonks understood the profound power of lifestyle to affect health destinies?
What if the plant-based clinicians grokked the systemic disincentives to rational policy and care?
It would be far more delicious and life-changing than a freaking peanut butter cup.
PS If you'd like to experience the WellStart Health Improvement Program for yourself, there's new cohort starting this coming Monday, June 3. Sign up by Friday and get a free bluetooth scale and blood pressure cuff (almost $100 value). Learn more and register here.