"In the last fifty years, the concept of an holistic approach to wellness, - integrating spirit, mind and body into the health paradigm, has been called many things, some of them unrepeatable in polite company. It has morphed from alternative to complimentary and finally integrative medicine. This includes spirituality, stress modification, exercise, diet and micronutrition. "
Dr. Gerald Lemole, Medical Director Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Center and Center for Integrative Health
Many centers are emerging around the country primarily because the public demands empowerment and a more proactive role in their own health.
They reject the mechanistic approach to medicine and recognize importance of the mind and spirit for wellness. They understand the importance of diet and micronutrition in this age of depleted food sources and a toxic environment. They lament the erosion of the age-old doctor-patient relationship at the hands of insurance companies, drugs, and technology.
Integrative medicine is sorely needed for the survival of our health care system. Too often we treat numbers, not patients. If the blood pressure is high, we give a pill to lower it. If the hormones are low, we give a pill to raise them. Many patients leave their doctor’s office with a plethora of pills, feeling awful but with terrific numbers.
Life is two dimensional. It has quality and quantity. Both are important and life is unlivable unless they are conjoined. The truth is that there is little evidence that by improving numbers artificially, we can enhance the quality or quantity of our life. Let us first improve our numbers naturally, by improving our attitude and changing our approach to life.
But we can ask, what is the purpose of this longevity and good health?
The 19th century philosopher, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov stated “if you are no better tomorrow then you are today, what need have you of tomorrow?”
The purpose of longevity and good health is to be of service. Service to yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors, community, nation and the world. Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who developed logotherapy, asserts in his book, mans search for meaning that for man to find happiness, he must do something outside his own needs or desires. Something that does not reward with a personal gain of wealth, power, or possession. He states that for true sustainable human happiness, we must interact with others with usefulness and service. Service and connection are the marrow of our existence. They are our Balm of Gilead - for in healing others, we heal ourselves.
Chrristiana Care’s Center for Integrative Health in Greenville is not only committed to patient care, but to educating the health providers and community; and studying results in alternative and complimentary care. We are in the process of installing an e-medical record system at Pelleport and will attach to that system an outcome based software program that will help identify the best integrative modalities for specific complaints. This will help us rapidly identify superior therapies for different problems.
Furthermore, we are in discussions with a local university to establish a health coach certificate degree to train specialists to help people improve their life habits in exercise, diet and spiritual and stress modification. We think it is important to have a coach to instruct patients about these areas, help people over the rough places, get them back on the wagon or cheer them on when doing well. People need others to share their success, and carry them through adversity. Community support and common interests are important in sustaining good habits. There are life coaches for mental health, nutritionists for food information and exercise coaches for fitness but true health coaches don’t exist. Oh, there are those who call themselves health coaches but they always come from a previous bias (exercise, nutrition, yoga, spirituality, psychology, etc.) and complement their primary interest by adding the other modalities. What is needed is a science educated individual (B.S., R.N., degree in physiology etc.) who then enters the program to learn all the modalities in diet, exercise and mind/spirit therapies, not to perform them, but to direct the patient to a program she will use and enjoy. More importantly, a program that will be sustainable, incorporated into habits and patterns for a life time. If the program is later found to be unworkable, the health coach can help in choosing a different modality. The “health coach” doesn’t have to be practitioner of a technique, but has to know and understand the principles of the technique. The health coach can then help identify a superior practitioner and work encouraging growth in all the areas.
The principles are simple -
- 1) A person will not continue an activity they don’t enjoy.
- 2) A health coach should be knowledgeable, with a scientific background and lastly,
- 3) A health coach should not have a preexisting bias or prejudice for or against any of the proven techniques in the integrative areas.
We believe this will help in interfacing with the physicians, incorporating life style changes into the medical regimen and help the patient understand the medications and changes in laboratory tests and assessments. Health coaches could also be a valuable asset to corporations, insurance companies, health care systems, colleges and schools, armed forces and a host of other organizations.
Large corporations have nurses and doctors to treat you if you’re sick - why wouldn’t they have a health coach to keep you well? The health coach can make us aware of our choices, both good and bad. They can keep us in the present, awake and conscious of our decisions. So many of our bad choices in food, lack of exercise and staying in the past or worrying about the future, are just bad habits that we have to break. We must be in the present. It is the only currency we have! The past is a cancelled check and the future is a promissory note, neither exist and are the cause of most, if not all the negative emotions and pain we experience.
Negative emotions and our response to stress can cause significant free radical production and illness. We believe that in the next two decades, with medical costs rising, baby boomers will be coming on line in greater numbers. Preventing illness rather than managing sickness is the only way we can afford a proper health system. Having health coaches as patient intermediaries and ombudsmen with science backgrounds and a global perspective on wellness, rather than a focused disease management and reaction to symptoms, is the only way to go. Our choices in this decade will have a profound effect on the health of future generations.