One likely aftermath of the recent Wall Street tremors is a next administration belt-tightening – which may impact one of this economy’s highest ticket items: health. This occurs just as we planned to bring millions more under the insurance umbrella. Something’s gotta give.

Though we need insurance coverage to prevent American families from going bankrupt due to catastrophic illness, for both economic and health reasons, health care reform must widen its reach to include integrative options that address the rampant chronic illnesses which gobble up most of our health care dollars.

Analogy time.

If you don’t change your car’s oil, your engine will burn out.

But let’s suppose a national monopoly licenses all gas stations making it standard procedure to replace engines rather than offer oil changes. In this scenario, your trusted mechanic claims oil changes don’t work. Following extensive advertising, many people believe them to be “dangerous.” Your neighbor, a retired mechanic, offers oil changes in his home garage. He’s considered a crank. Your sister-in-law goes regularly and encourages you to try an oil change. You’re skeptical.

This is our dilemma in health care. The dominant medical system is economically and scientifically bound to a narrow range of practices (and research models) while excluding integrative practices, along with research models that demonstrate their efficacy–particularly for chronic illness. The dominant system is sustained by pharmaceutical billions, much of it spent on marketing and lobbyists, bolstering ‘belief” in a system with significant shortfalls.

Most integrative practitioners agree that conventional medicine becomes necessary (and should be covered) for certain acute conditions. However integrative practices proactively treat incipient health imbalances to prevent, reduce, or delay the onset of many diseases. “Oil change” health care improves life quality and reduces costs long term.

Even though some 1.5 million people use integrative care, systemically the U.S. fails to access its fullest benefits because the dominant health franchise opposes it as a business competitor. When we allow marketplace forces to define health care (and science), we pay with our health. In the current economic climate, we no longer have the luxury of ignoring this reality.

These ten policy changes can begin to institute the best of integrative care:

1. Subsidize healthy food, tax both unhealthy food and its advertising. A thousand health books identify the foods contributing to epic overweight, obesity and diabetes. A miniscule tax on junk food could help cover costs of the proposed reform.

2. Incentivize schools, companies, universities, hospitals, and health clinics to offer training and support in foundational self-care practices for all ages. Include nutrition, fitness, stress management, addiction treatment, communication/ conflict resolution techniques, with counseling for trauma and major stressors.

3. Don’t confuse natural foods, products, and practices with toxic drugs and invasive surgeries – the former don’t require the same proofs of safety or efficacy so let’s allow people to elect their use.

4. Restrict television drug ads, which create demand for novel diseases designed by marketers. For toxic drugs, invasive surgeries, and vaccines, place the burden of proof of safety on the manufacturers, rather than indemnifying them.

5. The Body’s Oil Change: Ask integrative physicians to assemble the key diagnostic services that reveal health status including tests for inflammation, hormonal function, neurotransmitters, blood sugar regulation, organ function, cardiovascular fitness, mineral balance, nutrigenomics, bone density, and toxin levels–which will ascertain an individual’s risk factors to target treatments. Get group rates to make tests affordable.

6. Train nurses, nutritionists, and others to serve as Integrative Health Coaches offering regular follow-up care, lessening the burden on MDs and improving compliance.

7. Promote foods, tests, and treatments that help the body release the many toxins (such as industrial pollutants, pesticides, hormone disruptors, heavy metals, and infectious agents) to which we’re exposed now.

8. Test for and reduce all forms of environmental pollution that impact human and wildlife health, food, air, water, and agriculture.

9. Genetics reveals that people are biochemically unique. Support outcomes research into novel healing approaches that individualize treatment.

10. Down-regulate psychological pollution: The Climate of Fear communicated by government, the media, and films and television that emphasize crime, criminals, cops, the legal system, punishment, and violence negatively impacts people psychologically and physically. Work with trauma psychologists and the television and film industry to shift these cultural messages.

Finally, don’t put the wolves in charge of the chicken coop. In other words, don’t make conventional scientists the gatekeepers of integrative health research and reform. Be guided by the integrators.

Asserting that we have the best health care system in the world is equivalent to saying that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. According to the World Health Organization, we’re # 37 in health status. Health care isn’t about branding or profit, it’s about service.

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