One interesting aspect of the new views in caring for one’s health is that the public is driving these changes. I refer to changes in medicine, religion, and spirituality. Each of these areas is affected by the national discussion of new health mandates and intertwined with the others. Let’s try and sort out just why this is.
Author Diana Bass states in her book, Christianity After Religion, “that religious affiliation is plummeting across the breadth of Christian denominations. And yet interest in ‘spirituality’ is on the rise.” This interest in spirituality may be caused by a shift in how spirituality is viewed. According to historian Robert Fuller, the word “spiritual” gradually came to be associated with the private realm of one’s thought and experience.
Some hospitals are more in tune with this interest, and are changing the way they offer care, with more thought for a patient’s views on spirituality. In “Hospitals Offering Complementary Medical Therapies,” Michelle Andrews writes that “hospitals are elbowing each other to attract patients, increasingly they’re hoping to tap into Americans’ interest in – and willingness to spend money on – complementary and alternative medical therapies…”
While shifting views of spirituality have been occurring, prayer use as a leading alternative therapy has been steadily rising. According to a 2002 NIH study, of the 10 complementary therapies studied, 43% of the study’s subjects prayed for their health.
There are many different reasons people choose one type of health care over another. As a recent example, a friend I know had a massive cardiac arrest. His heart had stopped beating and he was not breathing. The physician told the patient’s wife that there was less than a 5% chance of any neurologic recovery. The wife, who believed in the power of prayer, called a friend who helps individuals change thought from one of disease to one of health. They prayed for healing, and the physician promised to pray, too. Within a week the patient was totally healed – and within a few more weeks ran a marathon. This is a positive example of mind-body-spirituality working in the manner that the public is searching for.
Rising costs, lack of accessibility, and the media’s reporting of traditional Western medicine’s failures have impelled the public to consider alternative therapies. To determine how these new views may “fit” together to be workable, the Templeton group is funding a national project to study and develop guidelines and tools that physicians, chaplains, and patients can use to further the mind-body-spirituality connections. The results of this study could help in developing guidelines that might use this connection to enhance patient treatment.
Fresh winds are blowing in health care based on the public’s demands, with new models for treatment surfacing.
photo by Charles Knowles