Most integrative practitioners have a solid understanding of the dyer state of the U.S. healthcare system. On average, Americans of all ages live shorter lives and get more disease than 16 other rich countries (2).
In fact, even well off, health insured, educated U.S. citizens are getting sicker and dying sooner than their peers in other countries (2).
The U.S. spends an astonishing amount on healthcare every year, far more than the next highest country. As of 2012, the U.S. spent almost twice as much than other wealthy nations like France, The United Kingdom, and Sweden – France being third total in spending (1). Yet, Americans keep getting sicker and sicker.
Recent studies conducted at UC San Francisco are starting to shed light on the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and furthermore the importance of integrative and holistic wellness.
UC San Francisco is where well-known holistic Dr. Dean Ornish calls home, and this facility has long been associated with promoting healthy lifestyles and wellness as a means of healthcare.
Dr. Ornish’s first-ever study was groundbreaking. It showed that heart disease could be markedly improved, and even reversed, through healthier diet, exercise, social support system, and stress management (2). Also, Ornish promotes Yoga and Meditation as forms of exercise and stress relief, which really lends itself to integrative and holistic treatments.
Since that work, others from UCSF have studied the effects of healthy lifestyle on other diseases. Peter Carroll, M.D., Department of Urology chair at UCSF has conducted studies with Dr. Ornish to judge the effect a healthy lifestyle has on prostate cancer (2).
Participants were put through the same routine as the heart diseased patients were with Dr. Ornish, which includes healthy eating, yoga/meditation, aerobic exercise, and a social support group.
Another group of participants were put through none of this.
Case in point, the participants that changed their lifestyle were far healthier and more likely to fight the cancer than those who did not. “500 genes changed, and they moved in a beneficial direction every time, says Ornish” (as cited in Volkman). Further, prostate-specific antigen levels (proteins indicating presence of prostate cancer) decreased in the participants that were living a healthier lifestyle, and increased in those who were not (2).
To prove that holistic wellness was not a myth, Ornish collaborated with two health insurance companies to see what the savings would be if patients decided to live healthily, as opposed to receiving bypass or angioplasty surgery. Within the first year Mutual Omaha saved $30,000 per patient, whereas Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield cut healthcare costs by 50 percent (2). Now that’s impressive!
Further, the cuts in cost are good news for integrative practitioners, as patients sought alternative care.
Ornish’s Spectrum Consists of 4 Main Components:
- A Low-Fat Diet Based on Whole Foods
- Moderate Exercise
- Meditation and Yoga
- Love and Support
Ornish’s research is making holistic and integrative care a viable solution to the healthcare situation in this country. By doing so, he is aiding the many licensed holistic and integrative practitioners around the country, getting us one step closer to being recognized by health insurance, and by the healthcare industry as a whole!
Ornish is not alone. The Integrative Medicine & Holistic Healthcare Association is actively establishing a provider network right now that will allow integrative practitioners in the U.S. to collaborate with each other and western practitioners and receive new patients who have coverage for their integrative services! This collaboration aims to take the work from practitioners like Ornish, and make it possible on a large scale, which will get people healthier, and make the healthcare industry more sustainable.
2. Oakes, K.V., http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/05/105701/can-wellness-cure