The Big 3-0?>
Be Well

The Big 3-0

by John Swartzberg, M.D.

It’s hard to believe that the Wellness Letter is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Our “old-school” publication (with an updated look) is still thriving as a world-recognized source of evidence-based health information. We’ve even grown from 12 to 15 issues a year.

Several of our key players have been here for the whole ride. Dr. Joyce Lashof, still active as associate chair of our Editorial Board, helped found the publication in 1984. Dale Ogar, our managing editor, and Michael Goldman, our editor, were also part of the start-up team. Dr. William Pereira, our other associate chair, has been with us for 20 years now. Compared with them I am a newcomer, though I am already in my 15th year (time sure flies). And Andrea Klausner, our senior editor, joined us 10 years ago. Our long tenure on the Wellness Letter gives us a rich collective memory.

Some things haven’t changed much since our first issues, when we covered such topics as the benefits of aerobic exercise, the cholesterol-lowering effect of polyunsaturated fats, the link between sodium and hypertension, the fraud of hair analysis, the perils of fast food, and how computers (yes, even back then) can cause eyestrain and neck pain.

And our core beliefs remain intact: That the key to good health is to pay attention to what you eat (with an emphasis on plant foods), exercise regularly, not smoke, and take steps to manage stress. We’ve always believed in the power of knowledge, with a healthy dose of skepticism thrown in, so that our readers will be wary of health-scare hucksters and think twice about buying dietary supplements and other products whose claims sound too good to be true (most are). Another constant: our belief in the power of social support and optimism.

But science evolves and knowledge grows—and more than 360 issues later, some of our views have also evolved. For example, we long blamed saturated fats for heart disease but now recognize that certain types, like those in dairy and chocolate, may not be so bad after all (and some may even be good for your heart). And we once recommended vitamins C and E and beta carotene supplements— but no longer, since later evidence found that these antioxidants in pill form were of no benefit (and can sometimes be risky).

We hope the Wellness Letter has done a lot for you over the years. At the same time we’d like to thank you for all you have done for us. The royalties earned by the School of Public Health from subscriptions go to the support of our students. This has meant hundreds of fellowships and grants, plus resources for many student organizations and activities. When these students graduate, they assume high-level positions in public health throughout the world.

By the time our 40th and golden anniversaries roll around, we expect a lot more progress will have been made on the health front. There could be a vaccine to prevent the common cold, more vaccines against cancer (like the existing HPV vaccine), and a single lifetime flu shot. We’ll know more about how genes interact with lifestyle factors, so that we may, for example, be able to customize disease-preventing diets. Maybe there will even be a cure, or at least good prevention, for Alzheimer’s disease. That’s my optimism talking, but these hopes are reasonable.

Who knew back in 1984 that “wellness”—the state of physical, mental, and social well-being, rather than just the absence of disease—would become a household word? We are gratified to have been part of the start-up of the wellness movement and look forward to contributing to it for many more years. We hope you’ll continue to join us on the ride.