Health care solutions multiply as we learn to take responsibility for our own health.
This is true even in the face of exigencies such as those reported in the September 11th edition of the Arizona Daily Star entitled, “Aging US faces cancer-care crisis, report finds”, by Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press. A panel under the auspices of the Institute of Medicine reported that a crisis looms as a result of the expected increase in cancer related cases. The demographics regarding aging in the US, the complexity of treatments, and the shortage of specialized medical professionals raise a serious concern. The forecast is that cancer cases could increase from 1.6 million per year to 2.3 million per year in 2030.
The article mentions, “too often, decisions about cancer treatments aren’t based on good evidence, and patients may not understand their choices and what to expect”. For example, “two-thirds or more of patients with poor prognoses incorrectly believe the treatments they receive could cure them”. It goes on to advise, “Topping the list of recommendations is finding ways to help patients make more informed decisions, with easy-to-understand information on the pros, cons and costs of different treatments”.
Shifting the responsibility to an informed patient is apparently gaining traction. A book, released in 2011, entitled, The New Health Age, The Future of Health Care in America, by David Houle and Jonathan Fleece, says “…it is time for all American citizens to accept greater responsibility for their own health”.
These writings, along with certain aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, indicate a clear trend to engage the individual in health care choices and to make each of us more responsible for our health, both preventative and curative.
Underneath all of this is an assumption that individuals know where to obtain the information for making wise decisions about their health. Both the news article and the book, however, are based on a modern surgery and drug utilization model of health and, by definition, assume that model as the scope of understanding needed to make informed decisions. But health and how to achieve it begs broader consideration.
The history of health is not tantamount to the history of medicine. The latter in its modern form has only been around for the last two centuries, according to Houle and Fleece. Whereas, maintaining one’s health has always been a concern of mankind. Methods of care and healing have evolved and have been embraced in different ways. They include physical, mental, and spiritual approaches to health. For example, those who find that they are faced with a prognosis of incurability in one dimension can appeal to another, which may provide the path of health. Taking greater responsibility for one’s health may also involve shifting one’s view of what health is, and how to achieve it.
An acquaintance of mine had been diagnosed with Meniere’s Syndrome, for which the caring physicians could offer no cure. So, my friend began to study more earnestly how a mental and spiritually prayerful approach could help. Her search led her to see herself as more than a physical organism and to recognize the possibilities coming from a spiritual concept of health. She was healed.
While to some this may seem highly unusual, changing one’s basis of thinking about life and health from an entirely physical point of view to a more mentally conscious or metaphysical one, is becoming increasingly common. The work and writings of physicians like Larry Dossey or institutions like the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, are leading more and more patients and physicians to broader considerations.
The idea that health is more than what goes on with the body, and that it is important for each of us to take charge of our health, is not necessarily new. Certainly, Mary Baker Eddy, a seeker of health and a religious leader of the late 1800’s, experienced this in her recovery from a near fatal accident. The attending physician had lost hope. She took responsibility and turned to a spiritual source with which she was familiar, Christian healing in the Bible. Soon she found herself healed of the injuries from the accident, increasingly able to establish her own wellbeing, to help heal others, and to teach them to replicate this healing approach.
Accepting responsibility as individuals expands rather than diminishes our health care solutions. This is a propitious time.