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The Human Body: The Next Digital Revolution

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One of the “super sessions” at the upcoming 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (January) in Las Vegas has the intriguing title “The Human Body: The Next Digital Revolution.”

Moderated by none other than Arianna Huffington herself, this panel of four “groundbreaking leaders in the field of digital health” will attempt to describe the different ways we’ll soon be using our smartphones to give us real-time data about our bodies, presumably in an effort to make (or keep) them fitter and healthier. 

The Pew Research Center, in a new report titled “Mobile Health 2012”, found smartphone owners in the vanguard, with 52 percent gathering health information on their palm-sized micro-computers. In addition, 19 percent of smartphone owners have at least one health app – with exercise, diet, and calorie-counting programs the most popular.

Overall, the proportion of cellphone owners who use their phones to access health data nearly doubled from 17 percent two years ago to 31 percent today, according to the report.

The medical community is embracing the trend, holding contests to encourage programmers to design disease-specific apps that doctors can “prescribe” to patients with heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

The American Medical Association has launched its own consumer weight app, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology held a contest in July for the best app to help consumers identify and reduce their risk of heart disease.

Of course, the 2013 CES discussion by high-profile “experts” is simply reflecting a trend that’s been going on for several years now: the 24/7 online search for health answers by individuals wanting more control of their health outcomes (and, presumably, their health costs).

According to an earlier Pew Research Center study, 80% of adults online are looking for health information – learning from their peers about symptoms, solutions, and costs, and what works and what doesn’t.

Researchers have also noticed a growing trend in what the public is willing to spend – out of pocket – in so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or therapies that are outside traditional, drug-based medicine.

Even medical professionals are using such therapies on themselves, and many hospitals are integrating CAM therapy into their normal medical or allopathic treatments. Surveys of medical students and medical schools (the future of medicine) show a growing awareness of the importance of such therapies for themselves and their patients.

Among the top ten CAM therapies used by adults in the U.S. is prayer. Many adults have found that there is a link between spiritually-uplifted consciousness and healthy bodies. Praying for oneself or a loved one is an alternative form of achieving and/or maintaining health and has been used since biblical times.

In a book titled God, Faith, and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection, scientist, religious scholar, and Jewish author Jeff Levin, whose research and writing beginning in the 1980s pioneered the study of religion, spirituality, and health, explores the latest compelling evidence of the connection between health and an array of spiritual beliefs and practices, including prayer.

In a section of the book titled “How and Why we Pray,” he concludes that there are four types of prayer: ritual prayer (reading from prayer books or reciting memorized prayers; conversational or colloquial prayer (informally talking with God); petitionary prayer (asking that spiritual or material needs be met by God); and meditative prayer (thinking about God or the divine, listening for God’s voice, or practicing the presence of God).

What all these types of prayer have in common, he says, is the seeking of “an inward communion with the divine, leading the pray-er into the presence of the ultimate mystery of God.” Dr. Levin goes on to conclude: “Keeping the lines of communication open with whatever or whomever we conceive God to be is among the healthiest things we can do.”

In fact, for more than six decades, I have found Christian prayer-based health care to be consistently reliable, always available, and extremely cost-effective for me and members of my family.

So, as we watch the technological evolution from physician care to online care to smartphone or iPad/tablet care, let’s not forget the kind of care that’s been around a lot longer and is still proving effective today. We might call it “prayer-care!”

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About Peter Van Vleck