Archive for the ‘Proactive health’ Category

Although many of us believe that a naturopathic approach to health, feels um, natural, you could argue that we are a small minority. Despite this, I don’t think the currently mainstream approaches to health are sustainable, and much as business and governments are being forced, so to say, to go green, I think consumers will increasingly be driven to the proactive and benign practices of natural medicine.

Because the natural medicine revolution is in its relative infancy (so far!), I love it when I get a chance to show shining success stories of naturopathic medicine and other alternative benign modalities.

The most common model you’ll see in such stories goes something like this:

  • person endures suffering in the form of illness/disease/deficiency
  • person endures additional suffering in the form of symptom suppression and lack of root-cause analysis from “traditional” medicine
  • person by serendipity or research finds natural medicine
  • person achieves previously unattainable levels of wellness and literally turn their lives upside-down

I have a similar story about how I found naturopathic medicine that I’ll have to share sometime. But one person, who has created one of the most candid and intimate blogs on the internet, has such a story.

This person is Gluten Free Girl, aka Shauna James Ahern. Her recent post, for those of you new to this site, gives an abbreviated version of her story. Here’s a little excerpt:

In the early spring of 2005, I was terribly ill. My body required 18 hours of sleep a day, my stomach ached all the time, and I could barely move without hurting. Doctors ordered one medical test after another, and none of them yielded answers.

My gastroenterologist refused to test me for it, even though it only required a blood test before I could stop eating gluten. He refused. Actually, he had his nurse call me. “Celiac is really rare,” she said on the message. “That’s a long shot. We’ll talk about it during your follow-up in two weeks.”

I went to a naturopath, who did the blood test. I stopped eating gluten.

When I received the official diagnosis — you have celiac — I clapped my hands and said yes! The naturopath was a little surprised to see my celebration.

The gastroenterologist was even more surprised, the next week, when I showed up for my follow-up appointment in great health, blood test results in hand. He confirmed it — I have celiac. And he left the room, embarrassed.

Yes! It’s a great story, and as you’ll see if you follow Shauna’s blog, her life really has been revolutionized since. I’ve been reading her blog for a long time now. I originally found it looking for gluten-free recipes and now that my wife is baking and selling gluten-free goodies at her work, we feel like Shauna is an old family friend.

The other story I have to share is over at the Helfgott blog: Bill Maher talks healthcare. Love him or hate him, Bill gives it to you straight. In this snippet of his show, he talks about the need for folks to forget about healthcare reform (sound familiar?) and throws light on my point that the consumers of health care should stop taking so many aptly-named “drugs,” and start simply doing something, anything.

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Have you stopped and asked yourself this question?

One idea clarified in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is that you should begin with the end in mind. Clarify your end goal and then plot the course to get there.

An interesting extension of this is to consider what you want to leave behind when your time on this planet is up. What comes to your mind? Leaving your family better off? Making a positive imprint on your community through your job or through other efforts?

Somewhere in the busyness of life, I think a lot of folks forget about their health, at least until a problem arises. The question this brings forth is, what is your health legacy?

Did you make the most of that astounding human body? That complex organism that defies and eludes the greatest minds of science? Were you able to teach your kids/friends/family/colleagues/acquaintances how to eat well, how to strengthen the body and how valuable that knowledge can be?

I hope I do this myself. I think I owe it to my fellow humans. I think I’m obligated to help the next generations achieve new levels of success, and to do that, they must be healthy.

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The idea of sharing the methodologies and technologies of employee health management programs with public health efforts outside of companies hit me as I wrote corporate wellness: beyond the corporation? I want to call it Open Source Health Management (not to be confused with open source health care software). Since then, I’ve tried to find out if this really is a “revolutionary possibility” or if it’s already happening somewhere.

The first thing I discovered is that this is a complex subject to search for! As with any internet search, the words you use in the search, the search engine and even the ordering of the words can affect the quality of what you find. In my not-so thorough search so far, I haven’t found much. If you search for “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) and “public health,” you mostly get references to articles that refer to a company’s responsibility to not damage public health. For instance, you’ll find an article that talks about the Woburn, MA case where leukemia in children was linked to contaminated municipal wells [PDF]. I think it’s obvious that companies should not be a danger or detriment to the health of the communities in which they operate. The question is, should they take part in the proactive health of that community?

The Center for Corporate Citizenship (another term for CSR, further confounding research) includes in its definition of corporate citizenship the statement that companies should be participating voluntarily to help solve social problems (such as education, health, ….). Right! As far as I can tell so far, it’s not happening.

Although many companies are starting to go so far as hosting clinics for their employees, there doesn’t seem to be any effort to expand the pro-active, lightweight and very effective methods (dare I say, naturopathic?) of employee health management beyond employee populations. The key factor in motivating companies to participate in CSR-related efforts is that they get something back: brand recognition, profit, productivity or some other identifiable return. The increase in the “greening” of corporations is currently teetering between responsibility to not damage the environment (think of giant smoke stacks) to being pro-active in achieving a healthier planet (utilizing renewable materials and energy, for instance). Going for the latter, companies advertise and market their greenness, and evidence is showing that there’s value in doing so.

Now, we have two more questions: 1) would corporations gain in some way by contributing knowledge, effort and technology to improving community health and 2) how would they do it?

It would take some rigor to answer both questions, but at this point, I think it would be worth a look. However, I’m not encouraged by what I’ve found so far. The National Business Group on Health defines itself as “the national voice of large employers dedicated to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to the nation’s most important health care issues.” Reading on the site, it appears the main point of this group is to share methods between companies and to serve as a voice in our nation’s capital, including working to “Counter Employer Coverage Mandates.”

The Partnership for Prevention (dig that name) sounds more promising. The group’s goal is to “seek to increase investment in preventing disease and promoting health and to make prevention a national priority.” Unfortunately, this again looks mostly like an organization focussed on influencing political policy:

Working closely with the Congressional Prevention Caucus, a bipartisan caucus formed in 1998, Partnership raises the level of knowledge in Congress about prevention and identifies strategies that can lead to a healthier nation.

Is this the way real changes are going to happen, by informing Congress? I do think that getting prevention in the minds of policy makers and into the agenda is a good thing to do. But where’s the action? Am I asking too much?

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I ran into a great post today: 10 Big Lessons from Little Kids. I’d have to agree with Henrik of the Positivity Blog that #7 really jumps out of this list:

Your body was designed for throwing baseballs, shooting hoops, and jumping off diving boards and stuff. In the secret language of children, the word “fitness” doesn’t exist. It’s called “having fun.”

As I said before, “fitness” in some form or another has always been part of my life. I think it’s an important part of being a human being to make the most of this body. I’ve gotten flattering feedback from friends and colleagues that I influenced them to live healthier, more active lives. For me, the key keeping active, and heck, being happy in general, is to have fun doing it.

My favorite exercise is without question riding my bike, where I get out in the fresh air, see a variety of landscape and scenery, and have the opportunity to ride as easy or hard as I want. Sometimes I do go to the gym, but even there, I still enjoy it! That’s probably not a very popular idea. It seems most people who have a gym membership sign up with the hope that that will be motivation enough, but the fact that they don’t really enjoy that atmosphere overrides it and stops them from going. Gyms count on this behavior.

So why do big companies have gyms? My guess is that it’s the easiest type of facility to implement, and they likely get insurance rate discounts by having it. But maybe a gym is too elaborate. How about some frisbees? Or walking trails? Let people get creative. Again from the article:

Everything can be a game. Why slog through the same workout routines in boredom, when you can add a little fun?

Great point. What good is any routine if you’re not enjoying it? It won’t be much a routine for long if you stop doing it. Whatever exercise you do, keep the mission clear: have fun!

This morning, OPB radio ran a story entitled, Lack Of Health Insurance Leads Many To Bankruptcy. They pointed out that bankruptcies caused by health care debts have risen sharply due to the combination of increased health care costs contrasted by the decrease in those covered by insurance.

In one example, a diabetic who had been laid off and lost his insurance explained that he had to pay $400 for an office visit to get a four-month prescription. Rather than drop another $400 on a 5-minute office visit, he started ordering pharmaceuticals online from Mexico. Four hundred bucks for an office visit? Naturally, I wondered if this person had ever considered naturopathy, where he could likely get an appointment for $100-$150, would be treated like an entire person, would likely talk to the doctor for an hour or so, and would be able to take control of his own health. Previous and ongoing studies show that specific dietary and lifestyle habit changes have significant, positive effects as treatment for diabetes.

And that gets to my point. The story brings forth two possible ideas to help solve this problem: universal health care on one hand and bringing health care prices down to “reality” to reflect a more capitalistic market. Both ideas hover far above any one person’s reach. Whether either could work or actually occur involves uncounted person-effort and time. In addition, both ideas, and the many other related ideas currently being stumped and hailed, don’t even begin to commonly define or clarify the problem.

However, there exists a solution for each and every one of us. The solution requires no kind of doctor, no special prescription, no bending of laws, no acts of Congress, and no economic analysis. Say it with me: I own my health. I have within me the power to shape my life, my mind, and my body as I see fit.

Through small, incremental changes in nutrition, exercise, your job, and even your state of mind, you can take charge of your health and get it out of the hands of any ongoing debate. You’ll know that you are doing all you can to prevent any disease or sickness. Hopefully, you’ll get to a place where you think that health insurance should be like any other kind of insurance: an investment to deal with the now unlikely event of catastrophe. At that point, you’ll know that you’ve strengthened your body and multiplied it’s natural ability to maintain wellness.

October is Health Literacy month, which according to this website is

a time when health literacy advocates around the world promote the importance of understandable health information.

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The site includes listings of events, resources and a newsletter. I think the idea of helping regular folk obtain, process and comprehend health-related information is absolutely crucial to overcoming the increasing disease and cancer occurring today. I of course have to repeat the fact that one of the six principles of naturopathy is doctor as teacher. Naturopathic practitioners seek to enable each patient’s ability to take control of their own health and healing. Rather than quickly cover brief symptoms and rush you out the door with a prescription, the naturopath takes the time to understand everything that ails you, in your entirety, and will then take steps to enable you to overcome those ailments. In my mind, it’s always health literacy month for the natural healer!

However, I still like the idea of taking extra steps to raise awareness. The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has a page devote to health literacy here. In addition, there are tools such as Yahoo! Health, Google Directory Health, and Revolution Health with a wealth of resources and information. I haven’t spent much time on these sites to say anything about the quality of the content, but I like the support for empowered consumers taking charge of their health. The more knowledgeable the health consumer, the better choices of treatment and lifestyle can be made.