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Prevention Through the Eyes of a Spinach Skeptic

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© GLOW IMAGES

© GLOW IMAGES

The sight of spinach on my dinner plate can – for me – ruin an otherwise good meal.

Although I’ve always been told that eating spinach makes you healthy, this does little to change my feelings about the value of it. I’m not sure exactly what would make me reconsider my view of this green, leafy vegetable, but research supporting preventative activities that may lower health care costs and eliminate unnecessary hospital and doctor office visits could be compelling.

Similar to my hesitancy about eating certain vegetables, some view other aspects of health with a dose of skepticism, including a mental approach to physical health.

However, many individuals believe and understand that spirituality has an affect on health – but don’t believe that church attendance or religious activities do. Yet studies document positive health effects from spiritual as well as religious involvement.

Such “effects on health are diverse, ranging from such tangible and easily understood phenomena such as a reduction of health-risk behaviors in churchgoers, to more elusive phenomena such as the effects of prayer on health and physiology.”

As medicine expands from a western-style, drug-based domain to also include alternative and complementary options, some caregivers are finding that spirituality can be a key ingredient of good health – especially for prevention.

The positive health effects of inward practices, such as prayer and meditation, are not new. The Bible is chock full of accounts of individuals who healed others and were healed of mental, social, and physical problems.

It is no surprise that today medical academic programs include topics on spirituality and alternative/complementary medicines. This trend is mirrored by the fact that nearly 40% of Americans spend $34 billion on complementary or alternative health care per year.  Most of this money is being paid for out of pocket.

Evidently, many see the pursuit of health as more than the exclusive domain of drug-based medicine. Based upon current research, it would seem appropriate that health care include considerations for mind-body connections, which would help reduce the costs of medically based health care and strengthen prevention components.

According to Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, “Americans get terrible value for money from their health spending.” The World Bank indicates that the U.S. spends $8,608 per person per year on health care, but the U.S. has a lower average life expectancy than Chile, where health expenditures are $1,292 annually, or Israel, where expenditures are $2,172 per year.

Given the fact that we need better use of our funds, we might consider preventive aspects further, including those addressing mind-body connections.

When discussing complementary medicines, Dr. Patricia Herman, who published a systematic review of cost studies on complementary and alternative medicine, stated, “I’m tired of this talk that there is no evidence for cost-effectiveness of complementary and integrative medicine. There is evidence. We need to move onto phase two and look at how transferable these findings are. We can take this evidence and run.”

While we consider this, I just may reexamine my perspective on spinach.

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About Don Ingwerson

Previously in the education sector as Superintendent of Schools, Don Ingwerson now serves as the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Southern California and corrects misconceptions about Christian Science. Don is a frequent blogger about health and spirituality.