The Role of Naturopathic Medicine in the Future Health Care Landscape
A Broken System
The healthcare system in the United States is not working well for most of us. It is well documented that costs are skyrocketing, making health insurance unaffordable for millions of individuals as well as employers. But even more importantly, our health care system is not doing a good job of creating healthy people. The US spends more money per capita on health care than any other country in the world, yet falls in the middle of the pack when looking at most measurements of health. It’s like paying for a Rolls Royce only to experience the performance of a mediocre compact sedan. Americans are getting sicker, not healthier, yet are paying more and more every year. Resources that pay for health care are predominantly allocated for disease management, drug therapies, and invasive and expensive procedures. Very few resources are allocated for efforts to promote primary disease prevention and health and wellness promotion.
There have been many attempts to fix our system, but none have yet been successful. One of the obstacles to transforming health care is the powerful influence of those who are benefiting from the current system. Pharmaceutical and other health industry companies, insurance executives, and certain groups of specialist physicians who perform expensive medical procedures are vested in keeping the status quo, as they see change as a potential threat to their businesses. These powerful interests have significant clout in Washington DC on health policy, have the money to buy advertising to persuade people that the system is fine, and play a major role in the kinds of medical research that gets funded and published.
A New Health Care System
In order to transform healthcare, the public must become informed and involved. When enough voting citizens send a loud enough message to our elected officials and demand health care reform, it will happen. Grass roots organizing, if done effectively, can equal and even exceed the power of the vested interests.
A new health care system must be fair and equitable by providing access for all citizens. It must focus first on preventing disease and promoting self-responsibility for wellness and health promotion. It must emphasize that health is more than the absence of disease, and that health care and self care extends far beyond the boundaries of the exam room in a clinic. The health of a human being in the United States is impacted by many things, including the health of our planet, the quality of our air and water and food, and the health and well being of those who live on different continents. We are all connected to each other, and attending to the health of the whole will richly reward the health of all individuals.
Quality Care for Everyone
So, what might be possible in a new vision of healthcare? Applying the principles of naturopathic medicine in designing a new model holds possibility; first do no harm, find and treat the underlying cause, utilize the healing power of nature, treat the whole person (planet), doctor as teacher, promote prevention and wellness. These principles can provide guidance in designing another way to think about, deliver, and finance health care.
What if we had a health care system where every citizen was provided with a basic set of health care services, delivered by the licensed health care professional of their choice? This set of services would incentives self-care and reward behaviors that improve health and minimize the risk of disease. It would provide evidence based preventive disease screening, and it would reward providers for achieving real improvements in their patients’ health rather than being rewarded for productivity and procedures.
Investing in Health
What if we had a healthcare system that spent more money on supporting clean air, healthy food supplies, and social justice policy to eliminate cultural health disparities than it did on drugs? What if we emphasized the concept of the healing power of nature from birth to death? Rather than spend enormous amounts of money on end of life care, what if we used those resources to help families through the very natural dying process at home or in hospice instead of in hospitals. What if we used the time tested low cost, safe provision of birthing services by midwives in non-hospital settings?
What if we invested in technology to foster the concept that the patient may in fact be their own best doctor? With technology, educational tools, and wise guidance from healthcare professionals who are also teachers, this is well within the realm of possibility. What if we created a system that rewarded people and providers for keeping patients out of the doctor’s office when safe and appropriate?
The opportunity to envision a new kind of healthcare in the United States is here. Naturopathic medicine can and will have a voice in the conversations that will help to create a new vision. Will your voice be there?