What Does it Take to Be a Wise Health Consumer?

What Does it Take to Be a Wise Health Consumer?

Model used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Ingrid Peschke, legislative liaison for Christian Science and spirituality in Massachusetts

More people are asking themselves this question in part because of the newly mandated healthcare law, or Affordable Care Act, and in part because health care in the United States isn’t exactly delivering on the goods.

“We have a disease care system, not a health care system,” says Shannon Brownlee, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer. “And the disease care system . . . if it really was honest with itself, it doesn’t want you to die and it doesn’t want you to get well. It just wants you to keep coming back for your care of your chronic disease.”

The title of a report published a few weeks ago by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine speaks volumes: “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.”

The report states, “The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries.”

According to new health rankings, the United States is last in a ranking of 17 nations. (Atlantic Monthly)

As a participant in the upcoming Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Boston, I’ve followed some of the email discussion threads healthcare journalists are having on the subject of accurately covering health news. One journalist had these points to make:

When looking at health information/research look skeptically at the “evidence.”

Always ask your healthcare professional if s/he knows of ways you can help/heal yourself without or with a minimum of professional intervention (“treatment”). Then ask for options to the recommended treatment(s).

This last bullet could include complementary or alternative forms of medicine–which, according to some estimates, about 70% of Americans seek annually.

One largely overlooked method, but steadily gaining traction is spiritual care–or treatment that acknowledges the health benefits of prayer. It’s a method I’ve practiced for years as a student of Christian Science, which acknowledges the mental nature of disease and provides the spiritual teaching that leads to restored health.

Support is steadily growing for this method of spiritual care. According to a study funded by the John Templeton Foundation (Managed Care Outlook, “National Briefs,” January 1, 1999), 55% of Americans said they would choose a health plan that included spiritual and religious healing practices over a plan that did not.

To find out more about this connection between spirituality and health, I spoke recently with Dr. Harold Koenig, director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health and considered the leading expert on the subject. In answer to the question, Do you think more doctors are picking up on the connection between thought/consciousness and health? Dr. Koenig had this to say:

“I’m afraid it’s still about giving people a pill. Our training isn’t to help people understand their health as much as to give them a pill and get them out of the office quickly.”

Despite this sobering picture, Dr. Koenig was quick to add, “Still, there’s a lot of research that emotions influence physiology that could adversely effect or help a patient. Well over 3,000 studies out now suggest that religious involvement/prayer etc. has a connection with a person’s health. They’re not all conclusive, but ⅔ of the studies show this.”

Since stress is the leading cause of doctor visits, dealing with it just might help you avoid the health care system entirely. Women on Twitter have been telling Huff Post their biggest stressors, including one woman who said her biggest stressor was “fear of the flu–not the flu itself, just the fear of it.”

I follow Dr. Lissa Rankin’s blog and find her posts very progressive for a doctor who’s truly rethinking health care on many levels. Her most recent post: “How fear makes you sick.” Both Dr. Rankin and the Twitter responder seem to be recognizing the power of thought in health outcomes.

Perhaps the first place to start is facing fear–fear that illness is inevitable and that there might not be a solution. My daily prayer practice includes facing the fears that try to crowd my thinking and replacing them with an inspired thought I glean from the Bible. Like this one:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). That’s a wise approach anyone can adopt.

Link to Peschke’s blog

About the author

Guest We are pleased to present Notes from the Field authors, who are assistant committees and church members in the Southern California region; and Notes from The Mother Church authors, who are Committees from the United States and around the world, as well as the Federal Committee on Publication office.


  1. Pamela says

    Thanks for sharing this. It is amazing how many times I’ve read lately how our health care system seems to be more of a disease care system. I hope the medical field is waking to the fact that health care is more than just giving a pill or some perscription. It is sad to think that physicians just want to maintain someone’s condition rather than to cure it as was stated in this article. Hopefully our world is waking up to the fact that matter is not what it seems to be.

  2. Belle says

    Great article…loved the concept of challenging the doctor on whether a procedure was actually necessary. They can be very intimidating, like car salesmen!

  3. says

    If there was more love experienced and expressed by and to individuals in their daily life, they wouldn’t look for it from the medical profession. I imagine that the main reason the majority of people seeking medical attention is really getting some “attention”.Love is the best medicine!!