Time to Rethink Health Care?

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Where to start when thinking about health? Everyday there seems to be a new twist on ways to gain the promise of better health or ways to overcome health problems – and many of these ideas seem logical, requiring only modest changes in lifestyle. But it’s easy to get hooked on a new fad, which is soon forgotten when a new idea comes knocking.Continue Reading

Pioneers in Health are Vital to New Ways of Healing

Pioneers in Health are Vital to New Thinking

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by Don Ingwerson

Many are welcoming reports that the practice of medicine is changing. How much and how fast is still anyone’s guess. One article profiling this change is “More hospitals offering alternative therapy services,” written by Los Angeles Times seasoned-reporter Duke Helfand.Continue Reading

Seeing Health Through a New Lens

Seeing Health Through a New Lens

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

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:

Over diagnosis:

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?

Mind-body-spiritual connections:

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:

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 show 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.

Article previously published March 26, 2012.

No! A Life Saver?

No! A Life Saver?

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by Don Ingwerson

“One Word Can Save Your Life: No!”  This Newsweek cover made me wonder how a word could save lives. It’s all about tests…too many of them.

At first I thought the article was slamming medical doctors and medicine, but I found it to be rather balanced in that regard. Sometimes tests are needed, but simply stated, less is more in the area of medicine.

Sharon Begley, the author, states that more health care can sometimes harm one’s health, while less health care can often lead to better health (an idea that runs counter to most patients’ belief that screenings and treatments are only beneficial).

Begley quotes Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine, as saying, “There are many areas of medicine where not testing, not imaging, and not treating actually result in better health outcomes.” Redberg adheres to this idea in her own life and has chosen not to screen for certain diseases recommended by her profession.

Others in the medical field are also looking more closely at screening options. An article in the Huffington Post reported that medical societies made up of family physicians, cardiologists, and other specialists are telling America’s doctors not to be so quick to order expensive procedures like CT scans and x-rays.

Another article, in the New York Times, reports a shift in people’s receptivity to hear all the pros and cons of treatment before making a decision. In this article, Dr. Barry says, “When patients are fully informed, they tend to be more conservative.”

This conservatism Barry speaks about may have helped spark a growing interest in alternative medicines in place of and along with the traditional treatments of western medicine.

According to a 2002 NIH study on alternative medicines, out of the nine alternative medicines studied, the most used was prayer at 43%. The Bible is full of accounts of healing and health restoration through the use of prayer and my experience has been that prayer does heal – and is a reliable medicine for health challenges.

Saying No to screenings is changing our approach to keeping the body healthy. Awareness of over diagnoses and the increased use of alternative medicines are important factors to watch as the public (and elected and appointed officials) work to define the limits of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care laws. These laws, as they were adopted, have the potential of creating new mandates, which reach into every community and home.

One issue is whether each individual has the freedom to choose the type of health care he thinks is best for him, and that the insurance industry is able to provide. Insurance coverage for all choices, whether those choices involve traditional western medicine and/or alternative therapies like prayer, should be considered.

Say ‘Yes’ to patient choice in the interest of health that is safe, and meets our needs.

Article previously published May 21, 2012 and first published in Blogcritics.

Living a Longer and Better Life

Living a Longer and Better Life

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Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

How would you answer these questions? Would you like to live longer; be more flexible, centered, balanced?

According to “Tap into the Power of Prayer,” those who pray are able to demonstrate the above qualities to a greater degree than those who don’t pray. The article reports a landmark study in the 1980’s that states, “…prayer was tested in heart patients in a large hospital. Half of the patients were prayed for; half were not. The results revealed a significant therapeutic effect from the prayer.

Even more interesting, distant or intercessory prayer worked without the knowledge of the recipient, reports Larry Dossey, M.D. in his book In Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine.

Robert Hummer, a University of Texas sociologist and one of the authors of the landmark study stated, “It does seem that behavior is influenced by church or religious involvement that affects expectancy.” So if you’re interested in living longer, attend church regularly. Results from this study (involving 22,000 people over a nine-year period) showed that regular worshippers lived 10% longer than those who never attended religious services.

“When you include prayer in your daily life,” says Catholic and cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, “You may become more open to life, more flexible, more centered. You may find it easier to resolve your problems and cope with stressful situations. Your relationships with others will deepen.”

These results, along with results from other studies, are of great interest to me – not because of the extrinsic values they support, but because these results are also identified with better health. These values do promote a quality of life that helps one to be physically independent and to make independent decisions about health.

The separation of mind, body, and spirit was not always the case in the history of medicine. But for whatever reason, science distanced itself from the wisdom of our ancestors, which included supportive approaches for healing. At present it appears that the whole person, including the spiritual, must be addressed in any quality health care system.

And according to an NIH study in 2002, of the ten alternative medicines studied, prayer was the one alternative used more often than any other.

Many religious leaders and medical professionals have indicated that prayer has a place in determining one’s health. One source that I’ve found very helpful is Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In these writings, she presents a clear pathway for prayer to influence one’s health, which leads to a longer life that is more flexible, centered, and balanced.

Article previously published  January 30, 2012 and first published on Blogcritics.

Navigating Your Way to Good Health

Navigating Your Way to Good Health

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A guest post written by Beverly Goldsmith, media and governmental spokesperson for Southern- Western Australia

When your current health practices aren’t working, it’s OK to navigate your way to good health. You don’t have to take my word for it.  Wanting to be healthy and well is what drives thousands of Australians to investigate what they can do to achieve a better health outcome.

It’s probably safe to say that all of us want to live a healthy, happy life. One way of achieving this goal, is to look around at the different systems of health care – to find out what’s available and what might work for us. This may seem like a daring step for someone to take. Yet an old advertising slogan for attracting tourists to the Northern Territory gives this advice:  “You’ll never, never know, if you never, never go.”

My grandmother heeded that instruction and took a new road to wellness. Troubled by the after- effects of bad surgery, taking daily medication, and forced to wear a heavy surgical corset, she was presented with a book on a healing faith-tradition which she’d never heard of before. However, being a spiritually-minded woman who believed in the power of prayer, she decided to read it. The result was healing. She was able to dispense with the corset and the pills.

My granny told me years later, that she was encouraged to take this path to better health by this Scriptural text. “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find…” This prompted her to accept the book so kindly offered to her. She said that she believed she had nothing to lose, but hopefully something to gain. So she acted on that old adage, “nothing ventured nothing gained.” It was a life-changing moment, not only for her, but also for my mother and me. We too read the book and were both healed of chronic ailments.

Finding a route to beneficial health options is not difficult to accomplish these days. A popular one is via Google and the Web. There you’ll find an astonishing array of information.  For example, if you type in this question, “What can I do to be healthy?” Google will bring up about 1,310,000,000 results in 0.51 seconds! That’s a lot of helpful ideas, right there.

To be informed, so you can make better decisions about how to take care of yourself, you can also visit your local bookstore. There you’ll find numerous titles on health and alternative healthcare strategies – the most popular being the Mind, Body, Spirit category. According to the Book Industry Study Group, 92.3 million health-related books were sold back in 1999. This number continues to soar. The reason, say market analysts, is the current spiraling cost of healthcare. This is what is giving many people the incentive to seek out fresh methods for staying well.

The ongoing trend towards investigating the connection between thought and body, is evidenced at events such as Healthy Living and Conscious Living Expos, as well as the big Mind Body Spirit Festivals held in Australian capital cities.  At these events, thousands of health-inquirers are willing to pay an entrance fee for the opportunity to speak with exhibitors and attend workshops. These health-seekers, act on the old saying, that “there’s no harm in looking.”

Mary Baker Eddy, an early pioneer in mind-body medicine, may have felt like this when she started investigating the health methods of her day. Needing to be well, she tried hydropathy, the Graham system of diet, and she practiced homeopathy. Her research led her to a break-through discovery of the healing power of a divine Mind, and to publishing these findings in a best-selling book.

Today, modern scientists are also taking the road to discovery. Health research is driving the way forward to a better understanding that we are more than just flesh and blood.  Psychologist, Donald Moss, of the Mind-Body Medicine Faculty and Director of Saybrook University’s Integrative Health Studies program says, “I think the general public is ahead of the medical establishment: the medical establishment is catching up. I see an increasing awareness and interest in mind-body medicine everywhere I go.”

When an intern at the University of Pittsburgh Health Center, Moss says he encountered patients with chronic illnesses for the first time. He saw that conventional medicine could not help them, but an approach that took the patient’s mind into account, along with their symptoms, often could. It moved him to become a mind-body specialist.

Now, thanks to Moss and others like him, society and medicine have become interested in alternative treatments. There is now compelling research, case studies, and a growing body of empirical studies which document largely positive effects of religion and spirituality on health. These range from such tangible and easily understood phenomena as a reduction of health-risk behaviors in church-goers, to the more elusive effects of distant prayer on health and physiology.

Navigating the spiritual highway to good health is definitely becoming easier. Spirituality is now very much a dimension in the complementary and alternative medicine field (CAM).  So if you’re seeking a new way to achieve good health, this arena may offer you a pathway of opportunity.

Link to Beverly’s blog

More To Medicine Than Medicine

More to Medicine than Medicine

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A guest post written by Keith Wommack, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Texas

Today, some health care providers are realizing there is more to medicine than, well, medicine.

For example, there is Mehmet Oz, best known as Dr. Oz. Oprah crowned him America’s doctor in 2004. He is a heart surgeon and the host of the weekday hit TV program, “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Oz entered medical school believing that traditional medicine had all the answers and he just needed to discover them. But the limits to this approach began to dawn on him while in medical school and as he began to talk with patients.

Michael Specter in a recent The New Yorker exposé on Dr. Oz, quotes Oz as stating, “Ultimately, if we want to fix American medicine we will need skeptical and smart patients to dominate. They will need to ask the hard questions, because much of medicine is just plain old logic. So I am out there trying to persuade people to be those patients. And that often means telling them what the establishment doesn’t want them to hear: that their answers are not the only answers, and their medicine is not the only medicine.”

Oz is bringing a much broader perspective on health to his viewers.

Yet, Dr. Oz and just about every practitioner trying to change perceptions have critics. Specter writes, “Much of the advice Oz offers is sensible, and is rooted solidly in scientific literature. …Oz is an experienced surgeon, yet almost daily he employs words that serious scientists shun, like ‘startling,’ ‘breakthrough,’ ‘radical,’ ‘revolutionary,’ and ‘miracle.’”

Oz tried to explain, “Medicine is a very religious experience. I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean. …You find the arguments that support your data, and it’s my fact versus your fact.”

Some critics say that those who suggest alternatives to traditional medicine are detached from reality. But, perhaps, those suggesting alternatives are gaining a connection to what is mostly unknown, therefore, unconsidered.

My day in a dental office might offer an insight into how a nontraditional method can have an effect.

My wife is a dental hygienist. Several years ago, she asked if I could do her and her employer, Dr. Steve, a favor. She explained that their receptionist, Annette, was sick and they needed someone to man the front desk the next day.

At first, I thought she was kidding. But, she wasn’t. They couldn’t find anyone else. I was their last resort.

I didn’t know how it was going to work, but I was willing to try. So, I agreed to help, but told them I’d need to be able to answer my own practice calls too.

Besides being a syndicated columnist, I am a Christian Science practitioner. I help people with mental and physical problems with prayerful, spiritual treatments. Most of my patients ask for treatment by phone and email.

Joanne assured me I’d run the front desk and be able to use the back office for speaking to my patients.

My job at the dental office was to have scheduled patients sign in, answer the phone and get the name and number of patients waiting to schedule an appointment, and gather information on emergency patients that called or walked in. I didn’t have to answer any questions.

I arrived for work at 8 AM. I sat dutifully at the front desk. Scheduled patients arrived and waited for their appointments. Joanne or the assistant ushered patients to operatories to be treated. The patients received care and then left.

I took my calls and prayerfully treated my patients. But a funny thing happened. Or, I should say, didn’t happen. Dr. Steve’s office phones never rang. No new patients called. There were no emergency calls. Nobody called to schedule an appointment. Nothing. This had never happened before.

I’d discussed the mental and spiritual nature of healing physical troubles with Dr. Steve many times. He was always respectful of my work and I of his. Both of us wanted to alleviate and prevent the suffering of patients. Our approaches were just different.

Dr. Steve treated each problem as a physical one needing material adjustments. I approached each problem as having a mental/moral cause and a spiritual solution.

In my mental treatment, I attempted to see the present spiritual strength and health inherent in each patient. I connected them with the divine. This allowed what was spiritually true of them to remove what was offensive. I’d learned that seeing people in this Christly way made them feel physically better.

My spiritual approach was good for my healing practice, but, apparently, not so good for business at the dental office. Did my expectation of health keep prospective patients from needing the doctor’s care?

Dr. Steve recognized the effect on his balance sheet at the end of the day. He looked at me and, with a twinkle in his eye, asked, “Could you go stand in Annette’s front yard?”

The evidence or data was clear. No new appointments and no income from emergencies that normally walk in the door.

This type of data may never be peer reviewed by “serious scientists.” It will be considered anecdotal. Funny, the “anecdotes ”have a way of consistently appearing. Some experiences and cures through what are called alternative methods may even be deemed “startling,” “radical,” “revolutionary,” a “miracle.” Though, I believe they are quite natural, even scientific.

Perhaps, both Dr. Oz and Dr. Steve realize there is more to medicine than, well, medicine.

– Keith Wommack is a Syndicated Columnist, Christian Science practitioner and teacher, husband, and step-dad. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then). Keith’s columns originate at: KeithWommack.com

Rethinking Health Care

Rethinking Health Care

© GLOW IMAGES
model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Where to start when thinking about health? Everyday there seems to be a new twist on ways to gain the promise of better health or ways to overcome health problems – and many of these ideas seem logical, requiring only modest changes in lifestyle. But it’s easy to get hooked on a new fad, which is soon forgotten when a new idea comes knocking.

This rather undisciplined, sometimes over-diagnosed, and often costly approach to finding and maintaining health was highlighted in an article I read recently. It did not present a positive picture of health in the United States.

Dr. Joseph Mercola was quoted in the Global Burden of Disease study, which assessed health and disease trends in 187 countries and is said to be the “largest ever systematic effort to describe the global distribution and causes of a wide array of major diseases, injuries, and health risk factors.” This study released its rankings of the top 10 countries with the highest life expectancies and Mercola points out that the “United States did not make the cut – not even close.”

Even more alarming, an article authored by Gary Null, Caroly Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio, and Dorohy Smith describes in excruciating detail “how the modern American conventional medical system has bumbled its way to becoming the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.”

In order to improve the present medical system, many in the health care arena are pressing for the development of new roles with drug and insurance companies based upon what’s good for the individual. Along with this push, there is the idea that there must be alternatives to the present western style treatment and drug system. Dr. Robert A. Kornfeld in, “Developing a Sustainable and Functional Medical System,” makes a strong point for the inclusion of integrative medicine when he states that, “the paradigm of integrative medicine seeks to heal mechanisms rather than treat symptoms. This approach is a win/win for everyone who complies.”

According to Janice Neuman, author of, “More Doctors Going the Alternative Route,” many doctors who are schooled in traditional Western medicine are personally turning to complementary and alternative medicine to stay healthy. One recognized type of alternative is prayer and in the article, “Characteristics of Adults who use Prayer as an Alternative Therapy,” those who prayed were more satisfied with care and had more favorable health-related behaviors. Over 90.3% of those in the study believed prayer improved their health.

Taking control of our health care decisions is one way we can address the lack of quality of the health care system and lessen the risk of perpetuating unsatisfactory health care. Although the idea of taking control of health decisions is becoming more prevalent – especially through the use of prayer – it’s still not a widely accepted idea. What’s interesting is that more that 140 years ago Mary Baker Eddy, a writer on health, wrote, “Fear is the fountain of sickness, and you master fear…through [spirituality]; hence it is through [spirituality] that you overcome disease.” Is it possible that as more and more people take control of their health and demand alternative approaches to their health care treatments, clinics, hospitals, and medical schools will shift their focus to meet these demands?

Hopefully, The United States health care system will then be number one rather than 29th out of 187 nations.

Article first published in Blogcritics.

Health Goals: Developing an Awareness of Alternatives

Health Goals: Developing an Awareness of Alternatives

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by Don Ingwerson

While establishing goals for the 2013 year, an article by Deepak Chopra titled, “The big idea(s) for 2013: A Critical Mass of Consciousness” caught my attention. As I read further, I realized that a goal has a better chance of being successful if it is in concert with the efforts of others. Chopra successfully makes this point when he states, “Our world right now is in a state of worrisome turbulence and chaos. If we are to achieve any measure of success in creating a more peaceful, just, sustainable, and healthy planet, it will require more than the participation of governments and businesses. We’ll need a critical mass of consciousness on the part of the people.”

Let’s look at one aspect of this larger goal: a healthy planet.

The goal of helping create a critical mass of consciousness (awareness) about health and the importance of this goal to each individual is very timely when considering how health care options are determined. Timely, because by January 2014 almost every individual in the United States will be mandated to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

This collective health awareness will need a critical mass of people who have found alternative and traditional therapies that work for them, and regulators who make them accessible under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If the new health care law is confined to traditional western medical practices, and modeled after existing delivery systems, Dr. Andrew Weil’s comment in the documentary Escape Fire, “We don’t have a health care system, we have a disease care system,” may describe our future.

Another issue is how patients will be treated, both mentally and physically. Do they need to take more responsibility for their health instead of routinely turning to the medical community to manage their lives through drugs? How do we achieve a critical mass of consciousness in this area?

Dr. Lissa Rankin urges, “The solution is not more tests, more drugs, or more procedures. The solution requires physicians to spend more time with patients engaging in the art of healing and educating patients not just about diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, and taking vitamins, but also the other factors. To be wholly healthy, you need to do more than care for your physical body. It’s also essential to be healthy in your relationships, your work life, your creative life, your spiritual life, your financial life, your environment, and your mental health.”

As regulators tackle the task of identifying therapies that should be available to the public under the ACA, there needs to be the recognition that the whole person – physical and spiritual aspects – must be addressed. Many studies show that health care must address the spiritual needs of the individual as well as the physical.

So my goal this year is to start with big intentions and resolutions. I know from past experiences that it may be easy to become discouraged and shift to smaller and personal goals, but I’m going to work to stick to the big issue, because an awareness (consciousness) on the part of the public is developing about the importance of a different type of health care – one that includes the use of alternative medicines (especially prayer and meditation) and for the accountability of the individual.

My health care goal is not separate from the critical mass of awareness on the part of all, and yet I must stand alone in my belief as to what manifests healthy situations for me. I recall a time that I engaged in setting a big goal by relying on prayer to meet my spiritual and physical needs. I was in the military service at the time and I was assigned full time to prayerfully help army recruits with their physical and spiritual needs. I saw how important bible-based study and prayer were for a healthy and stable emotional lifestyle on the part of inductees. It continues to be my goal for 2013 to promote an awareness (consciousness) that encourages the effective use of prayer and meditation as alternative medicines in resolving health issues. As the concept of health care broadens to address the needs of a population, a critical mass of awareness will result.

Article first published in Blogcritics.