Achieving Vibrant Health in an Unhealthy World
As a student at the medical school of Columbia University, I asked myself: what is the cause of chronic disease? With all that I had learned about diagnosis and treatment, there was a huge vacuum regarding one of the most important questions facing any society: How can we keep our people healthy?
Here we are in 2013 with run-away epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s in a nation with one of the most sophisticated healthcare systems in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a number of months ago that autism is affecting 1-in-50 children in the United States. Breast cancer is being diagnosed in 1-in-8 women. Type 2 diabetes, previously called ‘adult onset diabetes’ is epidemic in children along with Add-ADHD, allergies and asthma.
This is occurring in a nation that spends more than any other country on healthcare. Twelve years ago, the World Health Organization released the World Health Report 2000. Inside the report there was an ambitious task — to rank the world's best healthcare systems.
The results became notorious — the US healthcare system came in 15th in overall performance, and first in overall expenditure per capita. That result meant that its overall ranking was 37th!
There are many reasons for this. And in future articles we will expand on the various factors responsible for this situation.
But the solution is best summarized in one word: integration. The dictionary defines integration as ‘combining parts so that they work together or form a whole.’
When I was in medical school, although my original intention was to become an eye surgeon, I became intrigued with the mind-body connection: the influence of the psychological state on the functioning of the body and the biochemical affects of the body on the mind.
This level of integration, of the body, mind and spirit, is perhaps the most important for two reasons. First because it affects the individual person and ultimately a healthy world, a healthy country, a healthy community, and a healthy family depend on healthy individuals. Secondly, it is within the domain of the mind-body connection that we address the issue of a ‘health consciousness’, which is fundamental to achieving a healthy outcome.
The second level of integration is that between the two prevailing clinical systems of medical treatment: the conventional medical system and the wholistic (complementary, alternative) medical approach which is now seriously underway through the acceleration of the fields of integrative and lifestyle medicine.
The third level of integration, in which I am now focused through our non-profit organizational efforts, is the integration of clinical medicine (whether conventional, wholistic or integrative) with a community-based effort dedicated to health promotion and disease prevention. We take a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to health education, preventive medical strategies and community empowerment.
Recognizing that prevention of disease and promotion of health and well-being are the universal ideal, our activities are focused on an extensive health educational outreach and in forming cooperative partnerships with businesses, government and religious institutions around the concept of a ‘healthy community.’
In future articles, we will explore in more detail the most significant aspects of integrated healthcare on all of these three levels.