One night many years ago while I was serving in the military, the chaplain calmly and quietly told me over the phone that a soldier’s wife had been asphyxiated because of a gas leak in the family housing barracks. He asked me to go immediately to the base hospital and prayerfully support her. You might say that it was a call for “all hands on deck.” In this case it meant that there was only one purpose for us, which was to protect the life of this young woman. And protect her we did.
Recently I was reminded of this incident while reading “Here’s how we build a better health-care system.” The article described our present cutting-edge medical care system, one rooted in technology and supposedly unmatched in the world.
While major technological advances have certainly been made in medical science, I wonder if there aren’t other components that are needed for improving health.
It’s no secret that despite all the advancements in health care, most feel that it’s too expensive, over-treatment is rampant, and prevention is often not the primary goal. According to a recent study covered by The Atlantic, Americans’ health ranks below that of 16 other developed nations, despite the fact that the U.S. spends about $8,000 per person, per year on health care – more than any other nation.
What could be done to change this? Some would argue that a more holistic approach would win the day, focusing more on prevention and less on technology and the volume of treatment.
Dr. Deepak Chopra states in “The Great Divide: The View from the Alternative Side” that “no one could really object to the aims of alternative medicine, which are to bring relief to the whole patient. Sick people come to us in hopes that their suffering will end. If millions of them have been seeking holistic treatments instead of the two-pronged approach of conventional medicine—drugs and surgery—their motivation isn’t irrational.” While many Americans seek various approaches that will work for them, they are paying for non-conventional forms of treatment in addition to allopathic medicine. For example, according to one study, Americans spend $34 billion out-of-pocket on complementary and alternative medicine each year.
These Americans are seeking other options that will work for them, beyond the conventional medical model.
Right now there is a great need to support individuals as they try various health care options to meet their needs. While individuals will look at their options in various ways, typical offerings under health insurance plans need not “straitjacket” our concept of health. In thinking about a deeper sense of health and wellness, some may draw strength from a spiritual source, such as through prayer and meditation, while others will lean on the support of drugs and surgery. And some will do all of the above. Back to the phrase “all hands on deck,” we all must work together to provide and support all patients. Currently, there’s a growing openness toward a scientific study of spirituality and its effects on health.
After analyzing integrative medicine trends, Dr. Patricia Herman published a systematic review of cost studies on complementary and alternative medicine. She said, “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.”
That night when I was asked to be part of the “all hands on deck” crew while treating the soldier’s wife as she fought for her life, I was a member of a team looking for the best treatments available. The doctors were working with their best knowledge on overcoming her physical conditions and the dire predictions, and I was deep in prayer affirming that her divine Creator was good and had created her similarly good, in the Creator’s image, and would never leave her or create something that could harm her. For me, this idea comes from the Bible, where it says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” This woman was able to joyfully walk out of the hospital refuting the predictions that she would lose all her senses and her ability to walk.
Considering the whole person and his or her spirituality in treatment becomes that “all hands on deck” type of care. So why don’t we follow Dr. Herman’s advice, take the evidence in support of holistic care, and run with it?