Connecting the Dots: Health Reform and More
Last month, Van Jones, the author of The Green Collar Economy and new "green" advisor to the White House, gave a powerful lecture for the launch of our new Whole Systems Healing initiative. He did a terrific job of connecting the dots and explaining how green jobs (renewable energy) are a way to improve health, the economy, and the environment. We cannot solve big challenges like global climate change by thinking in silos. We need to connect the dots and see how interrelated the choices we make really are.
When it comes to health reform, a systems thinking approach is essential. I just returned from Europe, where I met with colleagues from Germany, Ireland, and England. We discussed health reform initiatives in our respective countries. One trend that stood out to all of us was the evolving role of consumers. People are demanding choices and a more active role in determining/managing their healthcare experiences. The British handbook of the National Health Service (NHS) Constitution, for example, explains patients' rights; advises them to take personal responsibility for their health and well-being; follows the course of treatment to which they have agreed; and provides the system with positive and negative feedback about their healthcare experience.
The focus on keeping people healthy and improving ways in which we manage disease is certainly at the forefront of U.S. health reform deliberations. I had the honor of testifying in February at a Committee hearing of the U.S. Senate entitled Integrative Health: Pathway to Health Reform. I spoke about the need to shift our system from one that focuses primarily on disease to one that emphasizes wellness and health promotion. Watch the hearing.
I also presented at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public about the need to expand use of integrative therapies and healing practices as well as the roles of nurse practitioners, Naturopathic physicians, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, chiropractors, massage therapists, and other providers. In each of these settings, I was proud to refer listeners to this Taking Charge of Your Health website. Read about the summit.
In partnership with Life Science Foundation, we created this website to give consumers information and tools that would enable them to more effectively navigate the health system, explore integrative therapies, and develop a personal plan for health and well-being. When we launched the site three years ago, health reform discussions were not focused on consumer empowerment or the importance of personal responsibility to any great extent. What a difference a few years can make!
We've re-launched a new version of the site this month, adding lots of interactivity and new features such as the Conditions section, where we explain how integrative therapies can work effectively in conjunction with conventional medicine. The new website is far more user-friendly and you can easily create a personal plan for your own health and well-being.
I hope that you find the website to be a useful tool when you "connect the dots" and take charge of your own health. I also encourage you stay abreast of the health reform conversations occurring on local, state and national levels. There is much at stake and we all need to contribute bold, creative ideas for change!