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

To Present a Clear View of Health Care Treatments, Prayer Should Be Included

To Present a Clear View of Health Care Treatments, Prayer Should be Included

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

I’ve found that prayer is crucial to everything I do and believe. So you can imagine how interested I’ve been to find prayer surveyed and reported as part of national studies on alternative and complementary therapies. A 2007 report indicated that 77% of the public used prayer in connection with their health and that prayer was among the 10 most common complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies.Continue Reading

Creating the Right Environment for Health

Creating the Right Environment for Health

© GLOW IMAGES Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Would practicing alternative medicine allow her to spend more time with patients and, thus, lead to an environment more conducive to healing?

This final question came from a young lawyer turned physician who, like me, attended a RAND Corporation meeting on alternative health care.Continue Reading

New Approaches in Health Care

New Approaches in Health Care

© GLOW IMAGES

by Don Ingwerson

In a professional meeting a while ago, I listened to a consultant talk about the effects of fear on the body. He asked each of us to hold a thermometer between the thumb and forefinger for a few minutes and then read their thermometer’s indicated temperature. After this initial reading, he guided us to think about something very stressful and fearful while holding the thermometer as before. After a few moments, he asked us to read the thermometer again. I found that my temperature reading had dropped 4 degrees!

The consultant explained that the body responds to situations where fear or tension is created by blood gathering around the heart in order to have the strength and energy to “push back” against the object creating that fear or stress. That leaves less blood circulating through the extremities of the body – so those areas become colder. It was a great exercise to see how one’s mind affects the functions of the body.

This demonstration would be referred to today as an example of mind-body connection. The mind-body connection has led to developing alternative therapies, which are rapidly being considered by the public as effective ways to maintain or improve health. Researchers studying these trends in health care are using terms such as alternative, integrative, or CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). Whatever the name, there is a growing interest on the part of the public to find effective ways to maintain their health.

Spirituality and prayer are also included among alternative approaches.

Professor David G. Myers shared data of just how important this topic has become to the public in “Spirituality and Faith”:

Of America’s 135 medical schools, 101 offered spirituality and health courses in 2005, up from 5 in 1992.

Since 1995, Harvard Medical School has annually attracted 1000 to 2000 health professionals to its Spirituality and Healing in Medicine conferences.

The National Prayer in Medicine Survey reports that:

Across multiple studies and polls, most Americans report that they believe in a higher power (90% – 96%). Therefore it is not surprising that the rates of prayer are also high among Americans. The World Values Survey data from 2006 report that 84% of Americans pray and other surveys report that out of those who pray, up to 81% pray a few times a month or more frequently. Among those who pray, the belief that prayers are answered is also high. The 2007 Pew Forum study reported that 80% of respondents reported that they had received answers to prayer and a second study by Magaletta reported that 44% of subjects described personal healing through prayer at least once. Clearly, spiritual beliefs and prayer are important among Americans.

For me personally, I have found turning to prayer a great help in resolving family, health, and professional needs for the past couple of decades.

These trends in health care are truly fascinating and the researchers who are reporting this expanding field are providing the public and professionals alike interesting information from which the public can make informed choices.

Article previously published December 11, 2011.

Health Care is More of What?

Health Care is More of What?

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Never before has society been so bombarded with the portrayal of health as a lucky break. Advertising is everywhere to convince us that it’s not normal to feel well.

No wonder a recent Pew study showed that 80% of adults who use the internet look for health information online. Sure, some people are satisfied with the care they’re receiving. But many are not. 100 million Americans say they live with a chronic health condition.

Naturally, health professionals are among those seeking various options to improve health and wellbeing. In 2007, researchers from UCLA and UC San Diego surveyed medical students across the nation, and found that 84% agreed conventional medicine would benefit by integrating more complementary and alternative medicine ideas and therapies. 99% agreed that a patient’s mental state influences his or her physical health, and 98% agreed that a patient’s treatment should take into consideration all aspects of his or her physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Some people feel that patients should consider only medicine proven to be effective in clinical trials. However, the 99% of medical students who agree that a patient’s mental state influences his or her physical health are onto something big, something that addresses the root of health concerns.

Not only are medical students investigating other options, but the public is searching for and trying new things. According to the NIH, adults in the U.S. spent $34 billion out-of-pocket in 2007 on non-conventional treatments and products.

In my own life, I’ve seen that the quality of my thought affects the quality of my health. Turning to a spiritual source improves health and wellness. A number of years ago when I first started teaching, I had a wart start to grow on my middle finger. It was located where I held the chalk or pencil to write. The area became painful and inflamed because I was continually using that hand to write while teaching. I tried holding the pencil or chalk in a different manner, but that just didn’t work for me. After awhile, the wart became larger and more ugly and my students began asking about it. I realized that I needed to do something about this condition. As was my usual practice, I prayed. After deep and sincere prayer for about a week, the wart fell off and I have never had a problem with warts since.

The Los Angeles Times published an article called “The X Factor of Healing,” in which the author addresses whether there is a spiritual factor that’s essential in healing. She cites studies that show no measurable link between a spiritual approach and better health, but she also points to some anecdotal evidence that some people found spiritual means to be a good option. It’s difficult to measure spirituality and wellness in a lab, but someone who’s experienced it knows how it feels.

People are searching for something more. Could it be that as both health professionals and the public continue to drill deeper into concepts of health and wellbeing as not split into various compartments of physical, mental, and spiritual elements, but as one whole, the “more” will crystallize?

Article first published in Blogcritics

Living a Longer and Better Life

Living a Longer and Better Life

© GLOW IMAGES
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.

Restoring the Heart to Healthcare

Restoring the Heart to Healthcare

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

This blog was originally published April 8, 2013, but I wanted to take another look at the importance of “heart” in healthcare after I read the July 8, 2013 Christian Science Sentinel article titled, “A Perfect Heart.” What struck me about that article is the mention that the word heart appears more than 700 times in the KJV Bible, but it almost never references a physical organ! Clearly heart is important as a spiritual concept.

“Mindfulness Meeting This Way” proclaimed a small sign at the entrance of one of the many medical buildings on the UCLA Campus – and suddenly I felt invigorated. I was not there to attend a mindfulness meeting, but to interview the GWish (George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health) project director, Dr. Margaret Stuber, about a Templeton-funded study to promote spirituality and health in medicine and healthcare.

I was so encouraged by my first interview with Dr. Stuber over a year ago as the project was just getting under way, and we discussed prayer, shared decision-making, and accountability in patient-centered healthcare. Dr. Stuber had told me that the medical students were the hardest to convince that they were not the only decision-makers in caring for patients. So you can understand why I was so energized upon seeing the sign in this medical facility about mindfulness!

Spirituality and Health is a relatively new field in medicine and healthcare. “Historically,” says GWish project director Dr. Christina Puchalski, “healthcare in the United States was founded on spiritual values… Over the last 60 years medicine and healthcare have been challenged by the tremendous explosion of technological advances and by the reality of increasing costs. These challenges have overshadowed the primary mission of medicine and healthcare – to serve the whole person with care and compassion.” With this in mind, Dr. Puchalski feels the mission of GWish is to foster a more compassionate and caring healthcare system and restore the heart and humanity to healthcare.

While my questions to Dr. Stuber primarily focused on prayer, shared decision-making, and accountability, ideas we had discussed previously, Dr. Stuber preferred to integrate these elements into a focus on prevention and how to provide more economical and efficient healthcare. She also focused on lesser-used complementary and alternative therapies such as massage, diets, yoga, etc.

She stressed that this is the time for change in healthcare, with prevention as a major element in primary care treatment – and this effort would include elements of mindfulness. As these changes take place, she indicated that more accountability will also be included, with overall quality of patient health affecting the amount of remuneration that those who deliver services receive.

Just as the mindfulness meeting sign was the first thing I saw in the medical facility, I see spirituality included in much of the thinking of those creating new medical and healthcare curricula. As I left the interview and looked at the mindfulness meeting sign again, I was reminded that Mary Baker Eddy, 19th century health researcher and author of Science and Health, gave new meaning to spiritual needs in the area of health by advocating the use of prayer to address the needs of individuals – stressing mind, body, and spirit.

A colleague of mine in England observed, “When we stop seeing ourselves primarily as machines in need of fixing, a more holistic approach is emerging – one that celebrates a patient’s often overlooked understanding of their own needs and the best way to meet them.” If this is what mindfulness leads to, I know I will continue to feel excited and invigorated.

Article first published in Blogcritics.

Integrative Medicine: Recognizing our Innate Capacity to Heal

Integrative Medicine: Recognizing our Innate Capacity to Heal

© GLOW IMAGES

A guest post written by Steve Salt, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Ohio

“What’s up doc?”

Seems the buzz around the medical water cooler these days is integrative medicine.

Think of you and your integrative medicine physician working “as partners to engage body, mind and spirit in attaining and maintaining optimal health.”  This is how physicians at University of Cincinnati Health describe integrative medicine on their website, an approach to health care that patients are requesting and health professionals are seeing as beneficial.

“Complementary” and “alternative” medicine (CAM) has been part of the health lexicon for a generation or more.   The terms have been used to describe those therapies considered outside the traditional scope of medicine or at least beyond the doctor’s comfort zone.  That is changing.

What is being integrated?  Complimentary practices such as mindfulness and spirituality, health and wellness coaching, yoga therapy, massage therapy, stress reduction techniques and acupuncture, treatments considered evidenced-based practices according to UC Center for Integrative Health and Wellness.

Why are they being integrated into the medical regimen now? “It’s about time that medicine put mind and body together and began to treat people in all dimensions of their needs,” says Thomas Boat, MD, Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.  He was addressing a group at the launch of the UC Health Integrative Medicine clinic, part of the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness which incorporates three distinct missions: education, research, and clinical care.

“The word ‘Integrative’ medicine is particularly, I think, meaningful to me because it does signify that we have finally arrived at the point where we understand that all dimensions of people’s existence and people’s experiences really do need to be dealt with,”  Boat said.

“If you look at the number of people who are engaged one way or another with integrative medicine, it’s a huge part of health care,” Dr. Boat told me later.

Dr. Sian Cotton, executive director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Integrative Health and Wellness agrees.  She is responsible for bringing Integrative medicine to UC, a project begun in 2009.

Cotton sees part of her responsibilities as educating “both faculty and students about what is the evidence out there, the good and the bad, so we know what people are doing and what works and doesn’t work.”

The growing body of research pointing to successful uses of integrative practices in health recovery and preservation as well as the increasing demand for these approaches by the public has helped to propel the movement.  Dr. Cotton reports that UC Center of Integrative Health and Wellness is part of a growing number of academic health institutions that currently totals 56 and are a part of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine.  The organization has established basic core values:

Every individual has the right to healthcare that:

  •       Provides dignity and respect
  •       Includes a caring therapeutic relationship
  •       Honors the whole person – mind, body, and spirit
  •       Recognizes the innate capacity to heal
  •       Offers choices for complementary and conventional therapies

Like Dr. Boat, Dr. Cotton appreciates the significance of all human dimensions being tapped in order to expedite healing.  To her thinking, “when you look at holistic health care and you look at physical health and you look at mental and emotional health and social health and when you look at spiritual health…people get it.  We are of a spiritual nature, a religious nature, we are very spiritual,” Dr. Cotton told me.

Curiously, the spiritual/mindful component has been absent from traditional medical practices with an emphasis solely on physicality.  Wisdom books like the Bible often point to an active spiritual life that “will make you healthy, and you will feel strong.” (Proverbs 3:8) Certainly, health and wellbeing have been a key part of many spiritual practices over the centuries.   And while not singling out any specific spiritual practice, an integrative approach that recognizes the healthful influence of spirituality and mindfulness appears to be gaining wider acceptance.

According to Dr. Cotton her colleagues are embracing much of the integrative philosophy, and medical students participating in integrative classes are being put on the “national landscape” setting “them up to be on par with the students around the country.”

And as health professionals are exposed to the fundamentals of integrative medicine and get more familiar with its application, it will be interesting to document our “innate capacity to heal.”   As Dr. Boat put it, integrative medicine, “It’s here to stay.”

Good Health: Don’t Contract It Out

Good Health: Don't Contract it Out

© GLOW IMAGES

by Don Ingwerson

I find it heartening that while there is still a tendency to view health care from 30,000 ft., more people in the health care arena are looking closely at the individual – realizing that health care is more effective when the whole person is treated. This reminded me of an incident on a snowy Colorado night when I realized that I needed to push the snow out of my driveway if I was going to be able to get to an early morning meeting. Because of the lateness of the evening and being in a hurry, I pushed the tractor in reverse without looking back and crushed my hand between the tractor and a tree. As in other situations in my life, I decided to turn to prayer for guidance, since I’d found a spiritual approach so helpful to me previously. I cleaned the hand and wrapped it. The next day I assured several concerned colleagues that I would seek additional help if it didn’t heal quickly. As it turned out, I didn’t need to.

Taking control of health care by incorporating spiritual practices, like I did to heal my hand injury, is being considered a viable option for many. John Counsell, radio host at 580/CFRA Ottawa, ties in the concept of spirituality in health care with the idea of taking responsibility for your own health care: “everyone needs to take responsibility for one’s health, whether it be of the mind, the spirit, or the body. Virtuous living, serving others, prayer, meditation, music, good deeds, a positive outlook, cultivating happiness, loving others, a robust sense of humor… will greatly contribute to the maintenance of health and well-being. Avoidance of negative, critical, punitive, destructive emotional states and thought patterns will also achieve the same effect.”

Counsell even describes an added benefit of taking responsibility by describing its effect on the health care system: “Our overburdened, severely impaired health care system could save itself billions of dollars annually if populations would follow the prescriptions of religion regarding lifestyle choices. The avoidance of smoking and the consumption of alcohol, keeping fit, avoiding overeating, and maintaining a healthy diet would do wonders for the health of the nation.”

Similarly, in a New York Times piece called “If You Feel O.K., Maybe You Are O.K.,“Dr. H. Gilbert Welch also supports the idea of taking responsibility for your own health care, which he concisely articulates by stating, “For years now, people have been encouraged to look at medical care as the way to make them healthy. But that’s your job. You can’t contract that out.” He implies that it’s more important to maintain health by considering the way you’re living, not through screening for problems.

Considering my spiritual connectedness to divine Spirit, my hand quickly healed despite what at first wasn’t pretty. Turning to a spiritual practice – for me, a Bible-based approach – gives me the option to take responsibility for my own health care decisions.

Article first published in Blogcritics