The Rising Threats To Our Health

Though evidence of a looming global healthcare crisis is plainly visible, few seem to realize the consequences will be catastrophic to individuals, households and national economies.

Here is a list—by no means exhaustive—of major health issues threatening hundreds of millions of people globally.

Air & Water Pollution

Photos such as these provide graphic evidence that air and water pollution are serious health hazards in many developing nations around the world:

Source: Kyodo News


The statistics are equally horrendous: roughly 40% of all deaths in Pakistan result from polluted drinking water, 500 million people in China lack clean drinking water, and in India, 90% of human waste flows untreated into rivers.

Though the winter smog in Chinese cities is infamous, many other Asian nations suffer from equally poor or even worse air quality:

The health consequences of severe air pollution are many, and a rising number of deaths are attributable to air pollution:


Air and water pollution do not stop at borders, and so severe pollution in developing economies has become a health issue in neighboring developed economies as well.

Ageing Populations

As populations age, health costs rise while the working-age population that must support higher healthcare expenses declines, burdening the middle-aged workers who must support the elderly and the young. Caring for a rapidly expanding population of elderly retirees burdens governments and economies as well as households: as income is taxed to pay for care, there is less money available for other programs and investing in future productivity.

We all know why healthcare costs rise as the population of elderly retirees grows: chronic non-communicable diseases go hand in hand with age. The costs of treating these lifestyle/ageing diseases (metabolic syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.) soar as the population and incidence of these diseases both rise.

A recent Standard & Poor’s study, Global Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth, warns that “no other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances, and policymaking as the irreversible rate at which the world's population is aging... The cost of caring for [the elderly] will profoundly affect growth prospects and dominate public finance policy debates worldwide.” (Source)

Globally, elderly populations are rising even in developing nations.


Over 1 billion people smoke cigarettes globally, with some 350 million smokers residing in China. Over one million deaths per year in China are attributed to smoking, but some estimates project this number rising to 3.5 million annually.

Add together air pollution and smoking, and the health consequences become even more severe. (Sources:,,8599,2043775,00.html)

Metabolic Syndrome (Diabesity/Obesity) and Diabetes

The scale of the global epidemic of obesity, metabolic syndrome (also known as diabesity or pre-diabetes) and diabetes are truly staggering: 100 million diabetics and 500 million pre-diabetics in China, 80 million diabetics and hundreds of millions more pre-diabetics in India, and another 100 million diabetics in the developed world. (Sources: Diabetes Is a Major Public-Health Crisis in ChinaNo Answers in Sight for India’s Diabetes CrisisThe Global Diabetes Epidemic)

This epidemic will overwhelm a global healthcare system that is already struggling to provide care for an aging population.


The consequences of diabetes include higher mortality among those under the age of 60, with major consequences in productivity and time lost to illness:

What is particularly striking is the disconnect between statistics that claim low obesity rates in developing countries such as India and China and soaring rates of diabetes in these same countries:

Meanwhile, other sources have published estimates of overweight/obesity in China that parallel data from developed nations with equivalent rates of diabetes.

Clearly, the factors linked to metabolic syndrome—diets rich in refined foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats, a lack of exercise, etc.—are on the rise in developing nations, regardless of the supposed rate of obesity (generally defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30) and being overweight  (generally defined as a BMI of over 25).

Competition for Resources

Though few connect global health with the rising human population, common sense suggests that the global competition for resources and the rising costs of providing basics such as clean water and air, and energy and food security, will pressure global health for purely financial reasons: if national incomes are increasingly devoted to expenditures such as military forces, energy and food security,  interest due on sovereign debt, etc., relatively fewer resources will be available to fund healthcare for the rising numbers of elderly retirees and the enormous populations suffering from chronic diseases that require constant monitoring and treatment.

Many people look to technology to solve these inter-related problems. Perhaps miraculous advances in biochemistry will solve all these global health crises. But a cautious skepticism is in order, for all sorts of wondrous but costly technologies that work in the lab and small-scale experiments fail to scale, i.e. become cheap enough and reliable enough to spread quickly around the world.

Advanced technologies require vast quantities of capital, expertise and energy to spread throughout the global economy. The necessary capital and resources are precisely what will be in short supply as demands on tax revenues and social safety nets skyrocket.

The Good News: We Have Agency In This Story

Despite these concerning global trends, health is determined at the individual level. Each one of us has the ability to improve our own personal health situation -- starting right now.

In Part 2: Putting Our Health Into Our Own Hands, we explore what we can do, as individuals and households, in response to the trends discussed above. As discussed in Chris' and Adam's recent book Prosper!, one of the most important components of true wealth is Living Capital -- the most essential component of which is our own bodies. Prioritizing our investments there gives us the best foundation upon which to pursue all of our other future goals.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I appreciate your writing on this topic, Charles.
As an emergency physician I watch in horror the mess that we have collectively gotten ourselves into with our poor health, complex and profoundly wasteful system, and hundreds of rules to ensure safety and reduce liability.

Some rambling anecdotes:

1.  at least 50% of the people I see on a given shift are in the emergency department (ED) as a direct result of unhealthy and destructive life situations:  Diabesity (diabetes, hypertension, arterial blockages in heart, brain and legs), smoking (chronic lung disease), alcoholism (vomiting blood, pancreatitis, liver disease, chronic brain deterioration), drugs (faking illness to obtain narcotics, withdrawal syndromes, overdoses and seeking admission to rehab).

2.  much of disability in the elderly results from the combination of obesity with arthritis --and the resulting deconditioning.  All obese inflamed people have pain (hip, back, knees), are short of breath with exercise, and begin to decondition to where climbing a few steps becomes very difficult.  At some point, they must go into nursing homes as they cannot care for themselves and they are far to heavy for family to lift.  This is not a disease but a downward functional spiral that many do not recognize until very advanced.

3.  A special note must go to the Pickwickian hypoventilation syndrome in the morbidly obese:  massive layers of fat lie across the chest wall and fill the abdominal cavity restricting breathing movement.  The brain slowly adjusts to not being able to exhale CO2 adequately and the person moves into permanent respiratory failure, weakness, cognitive decline, exercise intolerance.  I see this everyday I work.

4.  The community's poor and uninsured use the ED for primary medical care. The ED is the only place where you can see a doctor without insurance or putting money down.  Since many do not have cars, they come in by ambulance.  Some are hypochondriacs, many not terribly bright and many very anxious.  Others are just very unsophisticated and need "to be checked by a doctor" every time one of the kids vomits, skins a knee or comes into the proximity of a spider.  Medical records show an ED visit for someone in the family every 2-3 weeks.  They are seen in the highest tech setting possible for the most minor concerns.  And time constraint limit patient education opportunities.

5.  Depressed, obese, arthritic, unemployed, Mountain Dew and Marlboro consuming people have pain.  Often lots of pain. In many locations.  And narcotics improve that pain (temporarily) and offers a blessed and blissful (but temporary) relief from depression.  Going to the ED to get narcotics is a ubiquitous pass time of the rural poor in Virginia.  And of course you have to prepare a good story:  "Well.  (takes a deep breath) I was up on the roof when my horse kicked the ladder and the tree fell over towards my car which hit the side of the house knocking loose a shingle…(etc) … and it hurts REALLY bad."  (If you don't believe me I can lie on the floor and scream a bit.  Do I need to do that today?)   About 15% of patients are probably lying about everything they say.

6.  And then there are the RULES.  Tens / hundreds of hospital policies and rules to ensure uniformity, reduce liability risk, and conform with government regulation.  And the bureaucracy to oversee the application of the rules. 

An elderly woman with mild dementia falls and breaks her shoulder Christmas Eve.  She will need around the clock narcotics during the next week.  But no pharmacies are open due to the holidays.  The hospital does not have an "out patient pharmacy license" so cannot dispense pain pills to take home.  Without pain medicine, she cannot be sent home.  But we cannot admit her either as she does not meet Medicare criteria for admission.  We will have to hold her in "observation" status, which is not covered by any insurance and will cost her family about $2,000 cash.  But the ED is short staffed and very busy the nursing supervisor declares a "No ED Hold" condition (as is her prerogative to ensure good department flow) and the CDU (the observation unit) is closed down for the holiday.  Thus she cannot be sent home, cannot be admitted to the inpatient floor, cannot be admitted to "obs" and cannot be held in the ED for the night.  All for lack of $5 worth of pain pills.
7.   Sometimes patients just don't go to work and are told that they "must get a doctors note."  They come to the ED, tell a tall tale, have $1,000 -$2,000 worth of tests that are surprisingly normal, and are given an off work note.

We are in a mess!


A doctor I know who left medicine/research said patients would compete to achieve the highest Medicare bill.   Another doctor I know was put in charge of a preventive medicine unit but the management would not allow him to implement preventive measures that reduced hospital use so he quit and opened a private non-insured practice (tests and drugs covered but not office visits).

Sand_puppy, thank you for reporting on the daily reality of our system. I honestly don't know how you and the other caregivers in the system can stand it. As I try to describe in my writing, it's not just the healthcare system that's dysfunctional and destructive–that is a symptom of a society that is dysfunctional and destructive, but is in massive denial. Sadly, humans habituate very quickly to corrosive conditions, and soon everyone thinks this destructive state is "normal."
Complexity is costly, and though I don't know how the current system's high complexity will transition to a much lower level of complexity, I think your report makes it clear that one way or another the system will become less complex.

Thanks Charles and sand_puppy, I agree with you both, and here's my 2 cents' worth.  I am a family physician in Ontario, Canada with an absolutely conventional medical practice.  I never discuss the three E's, "prepping" or related issues with my patients and I practice according to whatever guidelines are handed down by the Powers That Be.  For me, it's just a daytime job.  However, since 2008 I have seen the writing on the wall and in my spare time I am trying to put together a book, mainly intended for fellow healthcare professionals, about how one might design a post-peak healthcare system.  You can find the work in progress at (free download).
There are three "clusters" of diseases which I see more of, day-to-day, than any others, and which form the bulk of my workload:

  1. "Diabesity" - the constellation of conditions which include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis, as described above by sand_puppy

  2. Low level mental health issues including anxiety, depression, insomnia, work related stress and chronic narcotic dependence (many of these often co-exist in the same patient)

3. Chronic pain.  It's often difficult to differentiate genuine chronic pain from chronic narcotic dependence, and I suspect that again, they often co-exist in the same patient.

If I didn't have to deal with any of these issues, I would be working one day a week and doing something more useful with the rest of my time, like practicing a musical instrument, or gardening.  I don't think I do much good for most of my patients because they never seem to improve.  However, they look to me as being the provider of their health, it doesn't seem to occur to them to take control of their health themselves, so I don't give them a hard time - I just play the role society expects of me as best I can, and wait for what comes next.

In the event of the gasoline supply drying up, the banks closing or the grocery stores emptying, I don't think most of my patients would live very long.

Good luck, and if you get time, please give me some feedback on my book.

…since 2008 I have seen the writing on the wall and in my spare time I am trying to put together a book, mainly intended for fellow healthcare professionals, about how one might design a post-peak healthcare system.  You can find the work in progress at (free download).[/quote]

Outstanding book thus far, Peter.  Well done!!!  I'm on page 16 (Awareness and Denial).  The book is very well written and chock full of succinct information about where we came from, where we're at, and where we're headed.  You've clearly put a lot of intelligent effort into writing it.  With your permission, I will share it with friends in the health care profession and also with the handful of brave students who will be taking one of two courses I'm teaching at the local university this spring (1.  Understanding and Preparing for the Post Oil Economy [which closely follows The Crash Course videos] and 2.  Depletion and Abundance [which relies on the new Prosper! book and puts personal and community preparation into high gear]). 

Skipping ahead to the chapter on Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP):  My brother is a licensed pharmacist who reads a lot and keeps up with trends.  He confirms that pharmaceuticals are often safe and effective long past the printed expiration date.  I'll see if he has more specific information and references to contribute to that chapter.   

Now, back to work for me.  BAU for the rest of the day.  (If I didn't own my company, I would fire my a** for today's obsessive surfing/researching about collapse.  Argh!) 

Sand_puppy - thank you for the excellent write up of some of your experiences in the system.
Peter thank you for confirming physician's experience, and for writing that book.  I've just downloaded it but not yet read it.  I'll be happy to provide feedback once I've gone through it.

Thumbs up to both of you!

It truly seems that unless one is willing to take control of and responsibility for one's own outcomes, then bad outcomes are the result.

It is a direct mechanism for health where people's poor dietary and lifestyle choices lead to 'diabesity' and all the metabolic disease issues that result.  

But it goes well beyond that where we've ceded responsibility and control for a huge number of vitally important things including food, entertainment, security, and everything else vitally important but which can be co-opted and sold back to us.

It feels good to be among those who are actively resuming responsibility for ourselves, our loved ones and the future.  

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Reading your post SP one thing kept coming at me. 
We've gone mad.

Every child should be given lessons on how our two brains work. 

I was given the bum's rush from my last job. The Occ Health & Safety guy actually read the act  and freaked out. His job attracted legal penalties if he failed. His response was to throw lots of paper at the monster. After all, his entire training was paper based. It was all he knew. He was the bureaucrat's bureaucrat.

I've had 42 Years experience as an Industrial  Electrician. I know what is safe and what is not. I jumped up and down trying to get management to understand. What I got was Wilful Blindness. And a reputation as a trouble maker and not a team player. 

The last I heard was that the entire electrical team was made to crawl on their bellies across a fragile roof 5 stories above the ground.  Their paper-work was impeccable. Toe curling stuff. 

Every bureaucrat needs to be exposed to Dr. IAIN McGilchrist again and again until they get it.

Thank you for the video link. It was first time exposed to many of those ideas.
Charles, Sand puppy and Peter, thank you for your excellent articles and the view from the trenches.
To me, it seems like the issues of diabesity and the ecosystem destruction are symptoms of the larger cultural. The idiolization of experts and the cognitive laziness that enables.
Nutrition is a great example of turning ones power over to others.
I have done yoga and martial art (judo, bjj, mma, arnis) for quite a while. I am getting to the point were it is all the same practice. Breathing, movement, body structure and internal and external energies. My yoga is jiujitsu without a partner and my jiujitsu is yoga with a partner.
But at the beginning… so many details, everything was fragmented. I am still learning that I am novice, bUT a different kind of novice. I feel the depth and intuition I am being blessed with applies to all, even if I don’t understand why.

In America hospitals kill more persons than guns.  Why do you want to stay far away from the hospital?  Viruses!  ACA has resulted in back room cuts so expect more dirty surgical instruments.

I think the experiences shared on this thread are so important and valuable, I'd like to incorporate them (leaving the sources anonymous) in an essay on my blog. I would not be quoting directly but drawing from the material. If anyone here would prefer not to have their comments used as source material, please let me know here or in a private message in (or email).
I am asking for permission because I think the cultural diseases (my term, not sure it's the best but it seems accurate to me) outlined here are so important. If we don't grasp the larger context of our healthcare crises, we can't really address the underlying causes.

Thank you once again to everyone who posted.

Peter31, thank you for posting your book. I have downloaded the PDF and will read it in January. This information is of critical importance and when you're ready to distribute the book more widely, please let me know.

Just my own anecdotal evidence:  I've never been more than a pound or two overweight (65.5", max weight ever, 152 lbs).  Nonetheless, I seem to have diabetes symptoms:  dark, thickened skin around the groin, foot fungus problems, some of the fatigue.  My blood tests show that I have a low level of prediabetes.
I suspect NAFLD.  As a result, I've carefully gone to a low-carb diet:  mornings are eggs and coffee, lunch is raw vegetables and sometimes a skinless meat, dinner is as low-carb as I can manage.  I still don't seem to be getting over it, but I've lost a pound a week down to 130.  That's where I'm pretty much staying.

But I think something else is going on here.  My wife has some similar symptoms, but also including high blood pressure.  These symptoms started 5 or so years ago, at the same time as my wife lost a pre-born child to calcification of the placenta.  We figured it was the CMV virus. 

I still think so, but I've started to think that CMV may cause a lot of the diabetes around.  It makes me wonder if gancycovir, or other CMV antivirals might battle diabetes.  But it also makes me wonder if the epidemic of dibesity isn't actually an epidemic of disease.


CMV can infect virtually any organ of the human body. The most common organs include the blood, brain, colon, eye, heart, kidney, liver, lung and stomach. In the case of an organ transplant patient, the symptoms of CMV can be easily confused with rejection.


The medical lit is not very forthcoming on the causes of insulin resistance. Perhaps Bruce Lipton may shed some light?

Peter 31, Glad to meet you.
I came across your book online a couple of years ago now - and am heartened to see it has progressed somewhat, as I thought then - and still do now, it's a great topic to write about and discuss. Will definately download this most recent version for summer reading.

Taking control of your own health can be empowering, and frightening at the same time. We have been conditioned to think it's not within our abilities to do so - and encouraged to hand our mental and physical health over to 'experts' who may or may not care about the outcome, and are becoming increasingly stuck in dysfunctional systems, or marginalised by their peers for thinking/practicing out of the box.

Considering the access to information we now all have with the internet there is ample evidence available to almost all in the western world, about different conditions and treatment options (as well as prevention).

Going against the conventional advice for treating a condition twice recently taught me new things about how the body works, and to have renewed gratitude for what we have available to us right now. But it means you are questioning/defying the experts.

The first time I was trying to treat an inflamed, sore nail-bed without antibiotics, but it got to the point I couldn't perform my duties and could squeeze out pus so needed it fixed even though I am reluctant to use antibiotics. Visit to my GP for a script. Cost $20 AUD. Second time was for the thrush (sorry guys - too much info I know - but if you are medically inclined I'm sure you can cope with knowing and understand the agony) the antibiotics (and Christmas sugar pig-out) caused - with public holidays and shops closed I wanted treatment sooner rather than later, and cheaper if possible so dabbled with some effect in home remedies. I went to the pharmacist for that, who learned a little from me, and gave me some options because his non-western heritage enables him to think wholistically and he could see I was amenable to new ideas - rather than just wanting a magic tablet. Cost $50- AUD with some spare meds tucked away for a just in case in the future event.

Will I consult online references and my printed texts again - most definately (these are not the first times I have done my own research.) I am lucky to have access to this information and to western medicine options if needed. BUT I feel unlucky that a lot of knowledge that may not be profitable to industry is slipping away from us as a generation of wise older people pass on.

Sorry for the long post but health and nutrition (and plants and gardening) are something that interest me a lot, and I could go on all day. Studying Nursing at the moment but really have a hard time on placements helping people with diseases of sloth and ignorance, and working in germy hospitals/institutions. Would like to learn more about natural medicine but in my part of the world it is a lot less accepted and a more impoverishing career choice. I currently work in community/disability care and hope I can wrangle a community based nursing position when the time comes. Lots of opportunity to educate clients in their own environment and create empowerment.

If you haven't had your daily dose of outrage yet pop across to Zero Hedge.
I've never touched the stuff but I pulled this from the article. 

The Federal Government Admitted Cannabis May Help Fight Brain Cancer: Though the government has long known about the medical benefits of cannabis — it holds patents on several medicinal qualities — the National Institute on Drug Abuse made waves this year when it published a document acknowledging the healing properties of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive endocannabinoid. In particular, it noted “[e]vidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumors.” Though more research is needed, the government’s admission was unexpected, albeit welcomed by many cannabis enthusiasts. Other studies this year suggested cannabis may help heal broken bones and is associated with lower rates of obesity.

And I will give you the man. Or why good intentions don't work.

Aloha! To me the most radical gangsta that ever lived was Gandhi! He overthrew an Empire by saying one word … NO!! NO we will not participate in your Empire! The British were completely without defense. If enough people can say NO they can make changes without the authority of Congress or without Mr Hope & Change himself! We have these Gandhi's in our midst.
I first met Ron back a few years at our LA studio where I am a development partner. He came in and told us about his GANGSTA DEAL in South LA. He essentially pulled a Gandhi and told the City of South Los Angeles … NO!! NO you cannot kill our kids! NO you cannot sit idly by and do nothing and NO you cannot let my people be your victims of state corruption!

If you go HERE you'll see the real cure for all our state sponsored ills and you will see them put into practice by one man. We need to say NO! We need to take back our country from these career parasites called politicians and let them be the victims of their own hubris! Abandon their Debt Empire like Gandhi did the British! 


Why should any citizen with self respect think that trashy vacant lots, liquor stores and dialysis on every corner is acceptable as the "norm"? When these "hoods" exist it is testament to failed government and corrupt politicians.

It only exists when We The People allow it to …

Like Nancy told us decades ago … JUST SAY NO!




The perfect storm of food health energy and economic collapse is brewing. Read the prologue in the book the synth The Synth for a great summary of the coming future. Percy nails it… Great story too, there are thinkers around obviously.
Its looking like a future of reduced life expectancy, war and famine until we can figure out how to escape this rock. Anyone with their eyes open, who understands that humans on Earth are just like chimpanzees at the zoo (very little higher brain function) knows that there is no hope for the collective. There’s only the possibility of pockets of harmony for those who can insulate themselves from the mayhem.