Shifting the Focus of Health Care
Dec 30, 2013 04:34PM
● By Linda Sechrist
Despite spending more than twice what most other industrialized nations spend on health care, the U.S. ranks 24 out of 30 such nations in terms of life expectancy. In the Issue Brief on The Prevention and Public Health Fund—which was issued by the American Public Health Association Center for Public Health Policy in June 2012—this is attributed to the fact that our country spends only 3 percent of our healthcare dollars on preventing diseases, as opposed to treating them.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created this mandatory fund to focus on prevention and public health programs. The ACA includes a suite of provisions that have the potential to reform our nation’s health care system, transforming it from one that treats sickness to one that promotes health and wellness. In doing so, its five-year goal is to turn the government’s $2.9 billion investment in community-based disease prevention activities into an estimated savings of $16.5 billion annually.
The Momentum of Change
An eternal optimist, Dr. Carol Roberts, M.D., with the Perlmutter Health Center, in Naples, has been ever hopeful that a health and wellness paradigm would emerge in health care. “I’m a little optimistic now about several things. Healthcare may slowly be moving towards a focus on health and wellness because public health programs slowly trickle down to the individual, just as the movement to eat healthier went from Michelle Obama’s White House garden to community gardens, school gardens and farmers’ markets to our tables in less than four years,” suggests Roberts.
“A growing percentage of doctors are beginning to realize that treating the underlying cause of chronic disease is far better for the individual than managing symptoms. Also, a small percentage of individuals are waking up to the powerful influence they have over their health. If we all begin now to ask for prevention-focused care and treatments aimed at the root cause of our health problems, we could add momentum,” emphasizes Roberts, whose integrative approach to wellness includes a network of health practitioners to whom she refers patients. “We can also begin demanding that our insurance companies cover costs for prevention. Surely, some forward-thinking companies will want to distinguish themselves by being at the beginning of a trend that makes people well.”
Christina Carlin, owner of Ayurveda, Massage & Yoga Institute, in Naples, stresses that the main goal of Ayurveda, a sister science of yoga, is to raise an individual’s awareness of healthier lifestyle options. “When you reach a more conscious mindset, you naturally question any destructive things that you are doing to yourself or others,” advises Carlin. The flexibility in ayurvedic medicine brings about significant changes, from better eating habits to various forms of exercise and meditation.”
Evidence for a New Approach
Madeline Ebelini, founder of Integrative Mindfulness, in Bonita Springs, works with a network of health professionals that includes a massage therapist, yoga and t’ai chi teachers and the physicians at SouthWest Institute for Cardiovascular Fitness and Treatment that recommend her mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) classes for their patients. As the most important finding to date regarding the practice of MBSR, Ebelini cites a new study that reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of intensive mindfulness practice. Completed at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, in Spain, the research compared the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice among a group of experienced meditators against that of a group of untrained control subjects that engaged in quiet, non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation. “I thought the most exciting thing was that the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Ebelini.
Optimal wellness and helping patients achieve dramatic health outcomes is the focus of Maximized Living, a comprehensive approach to wellness that encourages individuals to actively engage in their health. Practiced by chiropractors throughout the U.S., Dr. Joel Bohemier, owner of Trinity Chiropractic, in Naples, is helping to lead the charge. “This approach takes the guesswork out of health and clarifies the role the patient plays in achieving and maintaining wellness. We utilize not only patient appointments, but also webinars and community events to educate individuals about the five essentials of a healthy lifestyle—a positive mindset about life and health, proper spinal alignment for nerve supply, nutrition, exercise and minimizing toxins,” comments Bohemier.
Although rising healthcare costs and a lack of affordable insurance caused economic disaster, they were also catalysts for positive changes—especially more continuity and momentum around the concept of the body as a whole system. This perspective has seeded the growth of degree programs, board certifications and specialty training opportunities in areas such as integrative and functional medicine, while bridging the gap between Eastern and Western approaches to health. The holistic approach benefits patients at all levels of care, from biological dentistry, performed locally by Dr. William Lovett, DDS, in Naples, and Dr. Rodger J. Pint, Jr., DMD, owner of Bonita Dental Studio, in Bonita Springs, to whole health care practiced by board-certified advanced nurse practitioners, such as Deborah Post, owner of Wellbridges, Inc., in Bonita Springs, and chiropractic physicians, such as Michele Pelletier, owner of Network Chiropractor, in Bonita Springs, and Dr. Robert Gilliland, founder of Southwest Florida Natural Health Center, in Bonita Springs.
The basic tenets of holistic health are simple: consider the big picture and look within for the root cause of the problem; use lifestyle changes to restore health by building immunity, nipping illness in the bud and treating food as medicine. Such beliefs are the shared foundation of functional medicine, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The concepts of wellness as a way of life, illness representing an imbalance within the whole person and the body being capable of healing itself—all guide the work acupuncture physicians, like John E. Patton, director of Healing Arts Center, in Naples, and Michelle S. Brown, owner of Alternative Natural Healthcare LLC, in Bonita Springs, as well as licensed acupuncturist and chiropractic doctor James Goldman, DC, owner of Goldman Chiropractic & Acupuncture.
Dr. Xiu Qiong Cen, AP, M.D., owner of the Acupuncture Center of Naples, as well as doctors of Oriental medicine—such as Dr. Nick Shirghio, owner of Nicholas A. Shirghio Acupuncture Clinic, in Naples, Dr. Terri Evans, director of TAE Healthy Aging, in Naples; Dr. Graydon Snow, owner of Axis Natural Medicine, in Fort Myers; and Dr. Phyllis C. Weber, owner of Gulf Coast Acupuncture & Herbs, in Naples—are considered primary care physicians by the state of Florida. This allows them to help patients organize and coordinate a comprehensive wellness plan that includes a customized team of health professionals.
Mental health professionals are joining the medical team as part of whole health approach. Kimberly Rodgers, a licensed social worker who founded Monarch Therapy, in Naples, says, “My network of health professionals benefits patients financially. Out-of-pocket psychotherapy session fees are $100 to $150 per hour, whereas our group classes in yoga, Quantum Destress, and Transformational Breath range in price from $10 to $20 per session.”
“Now that complementary, alternative and allopathic medicine have risen to the status of integrative medicine, a health care plan can be used in concert by practitioners that network with the patient’s best interest in mind, resulting in healing and cures once unimaginable to solitary traditional practitioners,” notes Dr. Joel Ying, M.D., owner of Joy Health & Wellness, in Naples, who is also board certified in internal medicine, medical acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, energy medicine and wellness coaching. “I see a small percentage of patients who are adopting a new doctor-patient partnership approach, which helps to increase the success of the new prevention model.”