Mark Hyman, MD—author, practitioner, and educator in functional medicine—has hit the pavement in Washington, DC, to educate lawmakers and policymakers that universal healthcare coverage based on an “outdated 19th- and 20th-century model of medicine will lead us into danger.” In his Huffington Post article, “How to Fix Obama’s Health Plan Before It’s Too Late,” Dr. Hyman suggests the following nine-point plan to “create a culture of health and wellness and transform our healthcare system”:
- 1. Change reimbursement to include payment for healthcare teams focused on lifestyle treatments for chronic disease and the use of functional medicine, not just for expensive (and often unproven) procedures.
- 2. Improve research by comparing existing drug- and procedure-based medicine to changes in lifestyle, diet, and other functional and integrative approaches.
- 3. Transform medical education by including nutrition, lifestyle, and environmental factors as core components of the education of health professionals and physicians.
- 4. Establish an Institute for Functional Medicine at the federal level that would develop the educational curriculum for medical schools, residencies, postgraduate education, and other health professionals.
- 5. Improve food policy, agriculture policy, and school and community environments to encourage health by prohibiting food that is known to promote obesity and disease and providing whole, real, fresh foods for our children. Obese teenagers have the same risk of premature death as heavy smokers. We wouldn’t feed our dogs cola, burgers, and fries—so why do we feed them to our children?
- 6. Conduct projects in community health centers that demonstrate how offering inexpensive, nutritious meals (including takeout), recreational facilities, lifestyle counseling/education (like cooking classes), and healthcare based on functional medicine at one location can dramatically improve health outcomes.
- 7. Impose limits on pharmaceutical and unhealthful food advertising. More than $30 billion is spent on marketing junk and fast food to consumers, including $13 billion targeted at children, and more than $30 billion is spent by the pharmaceutical industry on marketing drugs to physicians (about $30,000 annually per physician). Direct-to-consumer drug advertising also drives prescribing practices based on preferences induced by commercials rather than science.
- 8. Develop a system of electronic medical records that facilitates 21st-century, systems-based, functional medicine. We shouldn’t simply transfer 19th- and 20th-century medical records-keeping systems to an electronic format.
- 9. Create a White House Office on Wellness, Health Promotion, and Integrative Health as a way to develop an ongoing vehicle for coordination of strategy and policy. It should focus specifically on coordinating and developing policies and programs for lifestyle-based chronic disease prevention and management, integrative healthcare practices, and health promotion.
It is critical that wellness be a part of government healthcare changes. We urge every American to insist their elected official include wellness and its principles in government healthcare reform.
The concept of wellness is of course closely allied with the concept of prevention. What do Americans say is their most important healthcare reform priority? Hint: it’s not getting the government to take over healthcare!
A new public opinion poll found that Americans rank prevention as the most important healthcare reform priority. According to Senator Tom Harkin (D–IA), “This survey underscores what I have been saying from the outset: If we pass comprehensive health reform that extends coverage but does nothing to reform our broken system by emphasizing prevention and public health, then we will have failed. And we do not intend to fail. We know that prevention and wellness efforts are a key to reducing costs within a reformed healthcare system. And they will be a centerpiece of the reform effort underway on Capitol Hill.”
Other Capitol Hill leaders in the healthcare reform battle agree. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D–MT) added, “This report shows that the American people believe prevention and wellness are the cornerstones of a high-performing healthcare system. And they’re right. Today, we spend nearly $800 billion on health problems that are directly linked to lifestyle and poor health habits each year—about one third of our total healthcare spending. Simply put, that’s too much. Reforming our system to focus on prevention will drive down costs and produce better health outcomes.”
“This poll gives hard evidence that Americans know what works,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D–OR). “Prevention and wellness come first.”
But true prevention is not the early-detection screenings followed by more and more prescriptions at a younger and younger age currently being pushed by allopathic medicine. According to Dr. Abraham Verghese, “If your preventive strategy is medical, if it involves us, if it consists of screening, finding medical conditions early, shaking the bushes for high cholesterols, or abnormal EKGs, markers for prostate cancer such as PSA, then more often than not you don’t save anything and you might generate more medical costs.” He might have added that taking more and more prescriptions at a younger and younger age may leave you sicker than you would have been.
True preventive medicine, as practiced by US integrative practitioners, involves advising and counseling the patient to make lifestyle choices that can turn on and turn off genes that predispose us to chronic degenerative disease. True preventive care does not push prescriptions or procedures, and does not generate billions for conventional medicine. It is based on commonsense, science-based lifestyle, diet, and supplement choices that can prevent and even reverse heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other chronic degenerative disease. And it is a true solution to our nation’s runaway healthcare costs.
Consumers hold the power, guided by their integrative practitioners. Find a practitioner in your area.