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Money: The Role of Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation, and Preventative Medicine in Health Care Reform

December 7, 2009

Money + Meditation in Health Care Reform

We know health care costs are are crazy. In the midst of our debate on health care reform we should be looking for innovative ways to decrease costs.

One suggestion is to place an emphasis on low tech, preventative medicine. We live in a culture that rewards the new, flashy gizmos. We favor high-tech interventions that work after disease has taken hold. A hospital or medical center can gleefully boast about its snazzy new fMRI machine or cutting edge technology in its advertising. The director can tell report to the hospital board with pride; the PR department has material for its website.

But how many thousands and thousands of dollars went into that piece of equipment? How much time and money was spent planning, researching the equipment, and training personnel?

If we are serious about improving health care and giving everyone access to quality health care (as we should be) then we need to seriously consider less expensive alternatives.

Eat Right, Move Right, Sleep Right

There are other strategies that can contribute to the public’s health.  Low-tech interventions, often occurring before disease takes hold can create meaningful benefits in the lives of patients. Nutrition, exercise, good sleep hygiene, all these things that we know to be good for us–somehow they’re lost in the discussion.

I lived as a work-study for a month at a center for holistic living. The leader there was to have famously said:

You only need to do three things in your life: eat right, move right, sleep right.

He would say that if you can really get these three things, everything else will take care of itself.

How many of us can say we attend to these three things with the diligence that we worry about our coffee?

Mindfulness Meditation

In addition to what we call “healthy lifestyle”, another low-tech strategy that also works both pre and post-disease is  meditation.

Meditation is an intervention that has received continued interest, research, and press. To that end, Kelley McCabe Ruff and Elizabeth R. Mackenzie, PhD, have written a review in the November 2009 issue of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. Reviewing the research literature on mindfulness meditation and consulting with experts in mind-body medicine, the authors argue that

“The factor most responsible for driving up health care costs is the neglect to use low-tech strategies to prevent disease and promote health in favor of high-tech interventions to treat disease after it has arisen….

a wide-scale adoption of Mindfulness programs throughout the health care system would decrease costs by keeping people well and facilitating the healing process when they do get sick [from PRWeb]

As the evidence continues to pour in about the effects of meditation (as yours truly tries to show at my blog here and twitter account), there can be little doubt that meditation has real and tangible benefits. Evidence shows that mindfulness meditation and yoga can improve health and wellbeing by: improving heart health; positively effecting hypertension, mild-to-moderate forms of depression, and various forms of pain; relieving symptoms of stress, anxiety, and insomnia; promoting healthy digestion, fertility, and immunity; facilitating relaxation and restful sleep; diminishing the use of medications (e.g. diabetes, heart disease) and even changing our brains for the better, whether by changing the brain to resist stress, facilitating decision-making (including medical decision-making), or supporting the healthy lifestyle changes.

The Point

Such low-tech strategies may not be as glamorous as the latest and greatest technology out of the labs, and they may not have the talking points value of a robot that can do surgery remotely. But such interventions like meditation or healthy life style changes could have a profound effect on our collective health.

We should be working to make these low-tech solutions just as glamorous and “cool” as the pretty robot in the corner.

From top-down and bottom-up, policy leaders and consumers should demand greater widespread implementation of alternative, low-cost strategies to health care. Our bodies, minds, and pocketbooks demand it.

What do you think?

Do you think the google search for “how to meditate” should be trending?

Do you have other ideas for inexpensive suggestions that improve health and health care?

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