Solving the health care crisis, have we got it all wrong? The health care industry, government, and insurance companies are looking inside the box instead of outside the box when considering ways to help decrease out of control health care costs. While looking for ways to cut services, using generic drugs and making sure you are getting the recommended health screens there is little support or knowledge about the benefits that integrative and functional medicine can offer to solve this problem. Our society is in a health care crisis with people developing one or many chronic diseases at a younger age and living longer but living a poorer quality of life. According to the July 2012 issue of Global Advances in Health and Medicine, the United States spends over one trillion dollars every year on chronic disease alone!
We have a pill for every symptom, but we are failing to look for the root cause or causes for many of the chronic diseases that are plaguing our society today. We need to start asking why and fix the why. First, each one of us needs to take individual responsibility with regards to our own lifestyle choices as this is part of the why. Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, sleeping less, and certain stressors are modifiable risks factors that only you can change. At the same time having the guidance and support of your health care provider is also essential.
The days of patriarchal medicine need to end and the health care team needs to make the individual patient a part of that team. We must be open to what other healing modalities outside of conventional medicine have to offer. The biggest threat to health care is that of chronic disease. If we address those factors that are contributing to the development and proliferation of chronic disease and fix it our health care costs, in my opinion would significantly decrease. Unfortunately many of the integrative and functional means available are not supported by conventional medicine and many insurance companies will not cover the functional testing or treatment.
There are many good functional diagnostic testing tools available to help identify what can be leading to inflammation, hormonal imbalances, neurochemical imbalances, gastrointestinal dysfunction, all of which are contributing to chronic disease. Through functional diagnostic testing the “why” may be uncovered. Once you know what those things are you can target therapies to help the body heal itself. You then not only help decrease health care cost but more importantly help improve one’s quality of life.
In order to solve the problem an integrative approach is necessary and can’t be done in a 15 minute visit with your health care provider. Taking a systematic approach to explore an individual’s lifestyle, family history, physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, and psychosocial factors are vitally important to help uncover what is contributing to one’s health and/or disease state. Once this is understood a more individualized and target approach can be provided. This is not a one size fits all approach. For example, what is contributing to chronic headaches in one person may have a very different root cause in another person. The treatment approach would also therefore be very different. Additionally other healing modalities outside of a medical procedure or pharmaceutical drug may be a safer and less costly treatment option.
I would like to quote a final thought to lead you with taken from the report of the July 2012 issue of Global Advances in Health and Medicine, “A growing body of evidence suggests that integrative medicine can help alleviate many aspects of the current healthcare crisis by providing effective, safe, and cost-effective treatments as well as preventing future disease and fostering wellness. Integrative medicine holds promise for reducing the burden of chronic illness on individuals, their families, and on the healthcare system”. Is it not time we put our egos aside and have an open and therapeutic discussion between those trained in conventional, functional, and integrative healthcare modalities? The best health care in the world would be one where these groups worked together to provide the best diagnostic and treatment options to patients and their families. I dare say we would likely have better patient outcomes and less financial burden to the health care system and the individual patient and their families.