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

November 21, 2019

This last full day of the Scorpio Sun has a grounded feel. The Moon is in meticulous Virgo. Morning lunar trines to Saturn and Pluto prompt a dedicated work effort. Productivity is likely to be well above average. However, mid-afternoon sees the Moon…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2019

“Bringing Energy into Matter” Learn basics of Tachyon, Zero Point Energy and Quantum Physics Tachyonized products and healing tools for purchase Participate in a seeing...

Cost: Free (preregistration is required)

Where:
The Sanctuary for Celestial Empowerment
10 Grassmere Avenue
Suite #300
West Hartford, CT  06110
View map »


Sponsor: Psychotherapy Healing Services, LLC
Telephone: 860-798-6176
Contact Name: Celeste E. Mattingly, LCSW
Website »

More information

Beaver Moon: Herbs for Aches and Pains Using Anti-Inflammatory Herbs. Refreshments served. To RSVP contact herbalist Rachel Ross, RN CNM. Visit our Facebook page for the latest...

Where:
Hillside Herbals
Jefferson, MA


Telephone: (508) 847-8615
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Atend a public hearing for S665 at the Massachusetts State House to protect holistic practitioners. This is the second bill that urgently needs your attention now. S665 will provide a safe...

Where:
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon St
Rooms A1 and A2
Boston, MA  02133
View map »

More information

With Peyton Pugmire, spiritual intuitive and Certified Angel Card Reader Tuesdays, 9/24, 10/22, 11/19, 12/17, 6pm–8pm You are intuitive beyond belief. This is your soul’s...

Cost: $40

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Telephone: 781-797-0389
Contact Name: Creative Spirit
Website »

More information

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Free Evidence-Based Holistic Health Education Program at Wilbraham Senior Center The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation), created and instructed by Michelle...

Cost: Free

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


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

The Fertility Awareness Meetup provides women with an opportunity to learn about and discuss natural birth control options and fertility. This is a space to connect with peers, access information,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cambridge Women's Center
46 Pleasant St
Cambridge, MA  02139
View map »


Sponsor: AC Fertility Awareness
Telephone: 617-899-7624
Contact Name: Anna Churchill

More information

The online dating scene can be exciting, overwhelming, and also annoying. However, it can truly be worth the hassle if you end up finding your ideal match! Just like Kerri did! Come to this...

Cost: $25

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Broga® is an officially licensed brand of fitness infused yoga geared for men but open to all. With instructors around the world, Chuck was trained by the brands creator and went onto work as...

Cost: $20

Where:
SSFIT STudio
339 Boston Post Rd, Suite 6A
Sudury, MA  01776
View map »


Sponsor: SSFIT STUDIO
Telephone: 508-904-7171
Contact Name: Steven
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come detox, relax and renew yourself for the fall in our sanctuary! We have an intimate gathering of great readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while...

Cost: $60: 3 Pack Service Special; $25: Single Service

Where:
Healing Power Of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani (My journey from cancer, to near death, to true healing) In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four...

Cost: Free

Where:
Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
411 West Main Street, Suite 2R (rear of building)
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »


Sponsor: Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
Telephone: 508-393-1212
Contact Name: Kim Flaherty
Website »

More information

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

At our free Divorce Boot Camp, you will learn how to manage the legal, financial, real estate, mortgage and personal issues related to divorce. About this Event: Are you considering, going...

Cost: Free

Where:
Leading Edge Real Estate
2 Mount Vernon Street
Winchester, MA  01890
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Four week series for girls ages 11 and up with Leigh Sloss This series of classes will focus on some of the most effective yoga and mindfulness skills for reducing stress and anxiety.  In a...

Cost: Series: $75; Drop in rate $20

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

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