While serving as a public school administrator, I dealt directly with district leadership who would often direct teachers to take care of all educational instruction. Homework was generally discouraged because it was thought that parents might confuse students, since new methods were unfamiliar to parents. Remember modern math versus traditional math, look-and-say reading programs, whole language instruction, and modern physics? But many experienced teachers knew that these programs weren’t going to survive. And they didn’t.
Why? For many reasons, but mainly because these curriculums only addressed program content and not the wide range of needs of the students. This left the teacher without resources to teach and explain the programs. To add to the problem, tests still measured content from the former programs and sent mixed messages, leading to confusion.
In many ways we have the same condition existing in health care today. Medical professionals and the drug industry are advocating a regular regimen of screening, prevention, and diagnosis – to address healthcare needs. It resembles the one-size-fits-all thinking and disregards patient choice, which may involve treatment by alternative therapies (including prayer) as well as traditional western medicine.
However, the public is taking a closer look at health care practices. What are they discovering? Here are three things:
In a New York Times article, H. Gilbert Welch described recent rumblings by the medical community of waning enthusiasm for early diagnosis. His article “If You Feel O.K, Maybe You Are O.K.” aptly states his findings. He continues with the message that the basic strategy behind early diagnosis is to encourage people who are well to get examined to determine if they are not, in fact, sick. But is looking hard for things to be wrong a good way to promote health?
The large number of studies dealing with how important these connections are is fascinating. Deepak Chopra in, “Medicine’s Great Divide – The View from the Alternative Side” is a watershed article on this subject. He unrelentingly presents his view that traditional western medicine (drugs and surgery) must blend with alternative medicines – sometimes called complementary alternative medicines. (The most used alternative therapy by the way is prayer, according to an NIH study.) At the end of his article, Chopra states what needs to happen: “The mystery of healing remains unsolved. If we combine wisdom and science, tradition and research, mind and body, there is every hope that the mystery will reveal its secrets more and more fully”
The placebo effect:
On February 19, CBS’s 60 Minutes covered a story on placebos as they relate to antidepressant drugs. Irving Kirsch, associate director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School was interviewed on the program. Kirsch makes the statement that the difference in the effect of the placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people. The patient’s thought about the drug appears to be the determining factor.
The Wall Street Journal also described a study in which thought affected the outcome. This study described how hotel room attendants were told that their jobs provided good physical exercise, which caused them to showed significant weight loss. Other employees did the same work but were not told about the potential benefits. These people showed no significant change in their weight because they did not expect this effect.
Over diagnoses, mind-body-spiritual connections, and the placebo effect are all important findings; especially considering that the mandated Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act reaches into every community and home. It’s important that each individual has the freedom to choose what type of health practices work for him and that the insurance industry is able to provide insurance coverage for those choices, whether they are traditional western medicine and/or alternative therapies.