Our Health Care System Needs Healing©

by Lonny J. Brown

As the second millennium dawns, a crisis of confidence threatens conventional medicine's century-long domination of American health care. A generation raised on faith in science is now disillusioned to find that medicine as we know it (that is, symptomatic bioanalytic allopathy) has failed to protect us from numerous contemporary afflictions. Modern health care is largely devoted to "pathology management" of sicknesses caused by our own civilization: heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, hypoglycemia; caused by unnatural diets, lack of excercise, tension, stress, pollution. We now know that these ailments can only be cured by social and lifestyle changes, not by doctors and medicine. 

ITEM: The "War On Cancer" has been lost. Our weapons of choice - chemotherapy, surgery, radiation - are dangerous, traumatizing, expensive, and all too often futile. 
ITEM: U.S. Infant mortality rates are among the highest in the industrialized world. 
ITEM: Exploding costs of hospitalization, high-tech treatment, and medical and malpractice insurance, have excluded a quarter of the population from adequate health coverage. The AIDS epidemic threatens to bankrupt the medical insurance system completely. 
ITEM: The drug industry is out of control. Of the hundreds of new chemical medicines produced every year, many are over-promoted, poorly tested, and downright dangerous. Sophisticated, well-financed advertising indoctrinates physicians into pushing prescription drugs, with little understanding of long-term effects, individual dosage sensitivity, or drug interaction. You are the drug companies' experimental population. 
ITEM: Women feel particularly betrayed by the medical establishment. After centuries of witch-hunt propaganda against midwives and home birth, after tens of thousands of unnecessary cesarean sections and hysterectomies, and the DES, IUD and breast implant fiascos, after being ignored or exploited by patriarchal medicine, women now lead the way in the self-care movement. (The first chapter of the classic "Our Bodies, Ourselves," by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, is titled "Taking Care of Ourselves.) 

Just when the limitations of drug-based biomedicine are becoming woefully apparent, an impressive array of alternative health practices is emerging. Some are ancient, such as yoga and herbology. Some are innovative and technological, like biofeedback and electromagnetic therapy. All work by naturally enhancing the body's own healing capabilities. Known generally as "Holistic health," the new medicine includes organic diet and supplementation, exercise and relaxation, acupuncture, hypnosis, vegetarianism, therapeutic fasting, massage, meditation, as well as emotional counseling, and psycho-spiritual training. 

Throughout history, cultures have adopted a variety of explanations and philosophies in the continuing quest for health. Illness has been attributed in turn to evil spirits, divine retribution, and bugs. Our contemporary model is built largely on the contagion theory of disease, and therefore promotes medicines that fight harmful outside agents. The holistic approach takes a broader view, identifying multiple causes (internal and external), while promoting personal immunity as well. Why does one person "catch" colds more easily than another? What's different about cancer survivors? Can we render ourselves more hardy and disease-resistant before medical intervention is necessary - and more resilient when illness does occur?   

The holistic view says yes. For 80% of our health complaints - the lifestyle, stress, and behavior disorders - natural, long-term self-care methods are a viable alternative to drug-dependence, side effects, and costly, hi-tech intervention. The fundamental premise is that your body knows how to be well, given the opportunity and support. Holistic health promotes organic, systemic "healing" and wellness maintenance, as opposed to periodic, symptomatic "cures." It is prevention-oriented, rather than pain-driven. For a society sick with stress, addiction, overindulgence and pollution, there's hope in the form of a simple, yet powerful whole-person self-care system that works better than drugs, starts at home, doesn't hurt, is cheap, fun, and l