Why There’s More To Fixing Health Care Than The Health Care Laws


Published:

There is so much debate currently about how best to provide health insurance coverage in our country that we risk losing sight of what it really means to be healthy and of how health care should be optimally provided.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” For the most part, the current health care delivery system conceptualizes disease as derangement in one part or a few parts of the human body, which is likened to a machine with smaller and smaller fixable parts.

Disease treatment in conventional medicine primarily relies on the use of medications or invasive interventions to treat the dysfunctional body part(s). It generally does not address the health of the whole person at the root level. Such a peripheral approach to health care overlooks the fundamental causes of disease and misses opportunities to realize true healing and health.

To achieve truly successful health care, we need to emphasize the primacy of healing the whole person on a fundamental level. This will catalyze a paradigm shift in the way health care is provided and consumed. Research has shown that such an integrative medicine approach, which considers the mind-body connection, lifestyle choice, social and environmental influence, individuality of body constitution and the therapeutic relationship, not only yields good health outcomes but is cost-effective as well.

As a professor of medicine and a practicing geriatrician and integrative medicine physician, I see on a regular basis the inadequacies of the current medical paradigm in addressing the chronic conditions often observed in aging. But I am inspired, as often, by the power of a whole-person approach to health restoration and creation.

Evidence Expands On Benefit Of Mind-Body Connection

Modern medical advances have led to the discovery of lifesaving therapies. However, for most people with chronic medical conditions, is taking daily multiple medications the optimal long-term solution to maintain health? Should we accept the spending of hundreds of dollars a month on treatments that might not truly cure diseases as the inevitable path of health care in the 21st century?

Clinical training in medical school and residency focuses on fixing those parts of the body that are seen as diseased. By contrast, focusing on healing the whole person on a fundamental level means addressing the underlying interplay of lifestyle choices and psychological and social factors that ultimately contribute to health or disease. To heal the whole person, a paradigm shift in health care delivery is needed, in which the primary focus is on healthful lifestyle choices that create true health of mind and body.

Evidence from clinical research has already given us a glimpse of how a wholesome, mind-and-body healing approach leads to changes in the body, which are measurable with laboratory tests and lead to better health outcomes. In a randomized, controlled trial led by Dr. Dean Ornish, men with early stage prostate cancer who followed a lifestyle change program that included a plant-based diet, meditation, yoga-based stretching and moderate aerobic exercise had decreased blood PSA levels overall. Men who did not follow the program had increased PSA levels (suggesting progression of prostate cancer) and were more likely to undergo conventional cancer treatment.

Remarkably, blood from these men who made lifestyle changes inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory almost eight times more than the blood from men who did not make changes, suggesting that lifestyle changes resulted in the presence of substances in the blood that have anti-cancer effects.

Shorter telomeres (regions with protective functions at the ends of chromosomes, and the subject of a 2009 Nobel Prize) are associated with aging and disease, and men with early prostate cancer who made lifestyle changes favorably increased the telomere lengths in their blood cells over five years, while men who did not make lifestyle changes had decreased telomere lengths.

In taking care of people with diabetes, I have repeatedly witnessed the reversal of elevated blood sugar levels in those who make earnest dietary and lifestyle changes, without the need to take any diabetes medications or with a much-reduced need for medications. Lifestyle changes (in a program covered by Medicare and major insurance carriers) have been shown to reverse the atherosclerotic narrowing of coronary arteries (blood vessels supplying the heart) in people with coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attacks.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s work also demonstrates that a rigorous whole-food, plant-based diet can reverse coronary artery disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.

Also, a growing body of research evidence supports the benefits of mindfulness practices on physical and emotional well-being. Importantly, the effects of mindfulness practices can also be measured by objective laboratory tests. In a study involving breast cancer survivors, mindfulness meditation improved fatigue and reduced fear of recurrence.

While it is not surprising that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety, an eight-week mindfulness meditation practice led to increased density in the left hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in memory (and damaged in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease). Mindfulness meditation also resulted in improved responses of the immune system to influenza vaccine. A review study found that the practice of tai chi, which combines meditation with slow, graceful movements and deep breathing, is associated with improved memory-related function in both healthy older adults and those with memory impairment.

Such holistic approaches to health also reduce health care costs. A study by Harvard researchers showed that a mind and body training program reduced the need to utilize health care resources by 43 percent after one year and decreased emergency department visits by half.

In a Medicare-sponsored demonstration study, patients with coronary artery disease who participated in lifestyle change programs were hospitalized less often (by 30-46 percent) than those who did not participate in such programs, and the lifestyle-change participation resulted in health care cost savings of US$1,000-$3,500 per patient over three years.

We All Have A Role To Play In Our Health

The concepts discussed here are not new. The field of integrative health and medicine, which champions healing of the whole person in mind and body and views health and disease through the unique bio-psychosocial determinants of each person, has much to teach the remainder of the health care system about how best to treat disease at the root of the problem, prevent disease and create health.

The Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) had already warned, more than a decade ago, that the current health care system is inadequate in addressing the needs of the aging population and the growing epidemic of chronic diseases. A fundamental change in how all of us (health care consumers and health care providers alike) view health and disease is direly needed to usher in the health care system of the 21st century that we all have the right to have.

George Wang is a geriatrician and integrative medicine physician, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His clinical practice and research focus on integrative health and medicine. He is currently exploring the impact of our daily choices on whole-person health, the environment, and human suffering and flourishing.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
21 Reasons To Eat Real Food
Getting Started With Meditation

The Conversation

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 15, 2017

This void of course Moon Friday is an interesting proposition. Much feels as though it is in limbo. Initiative is lacking. Mercury’s retrograde carries the winged communications whiz into a morning conjunction with Venus. The pair contribute to a…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2017

Free admission, 10%-20% discounts! Quality crystals, minerals and jewelry! We have an amazing display of merchandise for your viewing pleasure and purchase. We constantly add new items to our...

Where:
Cape Cod Center for Whole Health
116 State Road
Sagamore Beach, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Down to Earth Crystals and Minerals
Telephone: 508-680-6195
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Diane Lewis, psychic medium, for this very special holiday presentation. Be a part of this exciting evening as Diane connects to spirit, bridging the gap and gently bringing forth messages...

Cost: $40 per person

Where:
Hillcrest Country Club
325 Pleasant Street
Leicester, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Hillcrest Country Club
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Beginning, Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 Clarity. Knowledge. Personal transformation. No matter what you’re looking to find more of, Kabbalah 1 is the first step in your lifelong journey of...

Cost: 8 Weeks, $49.95

Where:
WeWork
31 St. James Ave
Boston, MA  02116
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Telephone: 1.800.522.2252
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Do you find it a challenge to quiet your mind? In Raja Yoga the mind is described as the generator of thought that resides within the soul. It is the one thing we can control in life. We simply...

Cost: Free

Where:
Inner Space Meditation Center & Gallery
1110 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Telephone: 617-547-1110
Website »

More information

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season drain you! Come join us for a holiday healing meditation and Reiki session with Judy and Geri. This session will start off with...

Cost: $25

Where:
Holistic Wellness Center
18 North Meadows Road, Unit 12B
Medfield, MA   02052
View map »


Telephone: 508-359-7400
Website »

More information

Please join us at our monthly meetings, second Wednesday each month in Northboro, MA. Stay inspired and create collaborative professional relationships. A welcoming community working for the...

Where:
First Parish Unitarian Church Hall
40 Church Street
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come join Mary Budrose on October 17, November 14, December 14, from 7-8pm to learn more about the The Budrose Center For Spiritual Growth healing program and experience a chakra balancing...

Where:
Budrose Center for Spiritual Growth (Blossom Healings)
54 Main Street
Topsfield, MA  01983
View map »


Telephone: 978-561-1687
Contact Name: Mary Budrose
Website »

More information

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

Join us in the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki practitioners and others interested in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki — revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher) This one-day class covers the basic principles of...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

2 Saturday 10:30AM classes to practice IPT Yoga at Sohum in Westborough, MA Want to practice yoga to relieve pain on the bottom of the foot? Integrated Positional Technique (IPT) for...

Cost: $30 per class prereg; $55 for both; $35 each at the door

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street
Suite 108b (next to hair salon)
Westborough, MA, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: PatLebauYoga
Telephone: 508-393-5581
Contact Name: Pat Lebau
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags