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Page 5 - Ancient Healthcare for a Modern World
The most obvious economic benefits to an integrated or comprehensive model in the U.S. can be summarized as follows:
Many disorders respond immediately to acupuncture, massage, and herbal formulas. A series of visits with an acupucturist and a course of one or two herbal formulas often will clear the case. This is why the Chinese use the four-step model outlined above. Natural methods that cause no side effects will, in a large percentage of cases, resolve the problem.
The expense of treatment with acupuncture, massage, and herbs is less than with Western medicine. Often the cost of treatment with natural methods is less expensive than preliminary diagnostic procedures in the West. Massage involves no technology and minimal supplies. Acupuncture requires only minimal technology, if electrical stimulation is used, and minimal supplies. Herbal formulas (and homeopathic remedies) have not historically required FDA approval and are therefore much less expensive than pharmaceutical drugs.These examples suggest that integration will have dramatic economic benefit.
Treatment, in a sense, is diagnostic. When gastrointestinal pain responds quickly to alternative methods, the need for expensive technical diagnostic methods is averted. If such pain does not respond to acupuncture, for example, then more extensive diagnosis may be appropriate.
The Chinese have found that this system can be used to rule out certain diseases and frequently resolve the case. Acupuncture can be applied in a group setting. Rather than one doctor seeing one patient at a time at an exorbitant cost, one doctor can see a dozen or more patients at a time. In an era when the cost of medicine is at tragic proportions, the strategy of applying a high volume of effective treatment for a low cost is very desirable.
The methods and modalities of traditional Chinese medicine tend to suggest the value of self-care. Invasive diagnoses as well as procedures and medications that cause side effects, tend to deter the individual from pursuing self-care. It is usual in traditional Chinese medicine for diet, self-care, and herbal tonics to be used parallel with treatment.
Cost Reduction & the Implementation of a Sustainable Self Care System
It cannot be emphasized too often that self-care is free health care. The challenge of "retooling" in the U.S. to create a self-care system that is spontaneously sustainable over time will have some cost. However, in managed care it is not an expense against profit; it is an investment against demand. "An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure" is not a pop new phrase. Our own culture has a tradition of the value of the timely and foresightful purchase of an ounce of prevention rather than the belated purchase of a pound of cure.
The most obvious economic benefits to a strong self-care component to the health care system in the U.S. consists of:
Self-care is free health care. If prevention is learned and then self-applied, it then becomes a resource that the individual owns and can use for the rest of their life. Medical treatment, conversely, is procured only from highly trained and expensive experts. When follow-up on medical treatment is necessary, the purchase of the second pound of care is always expensive; the second ounce of prevention is frequently free.
People can learn self-care in large groups. Treatment, unless it is group acupuncture treatment, is generally provided one person at a time and is more expensive. Group practice self-care is extremely cost effective.
Sick people and elders tend to become isolated in the U.S. Group learning and group practice of self-care methods tends to cut costs that are associated with such isolation. Group applied self-care is not only physiologically beneficial but sociologically beneficial as well.
Unfortunately, there are certain limits to the application of self-care. However, the limits are not inherent to self-care itself but are actually reflections on some negative aspects of American society. First, self-care is too simple. People are addicted to complexity. For example, taking a deep breath and thinking a relaxing thought takes less than 10 seconds. It triggers numerous physiological mechanisms that are associated with healing. One can take a deep breath anywhere, at anytime, with no need for a prescription and no special equipment. But very few people do it. It's too easy and it's difficult to believe that something so easy could be so profound.
Second, people want to break the rules of health and then have the system pay a highly trained professional to fix them for no additional cost. Tragically, it is very unlikely that Americans, whether rich or poor, will be moved to take preventative action and practice self-care. Our population has the bad habit of expecting society and the system to fix them.
The self-care system in China is pervasive and enthusiastically supported by the medical system, the government, the business community, the media, and 1,000 years of tradition. In the U.S., with the mobilization of broad support, particularly from the government, medicine, education, and the business community, self-care may blossom and bear powerful social and economic fruit.
Toward a World Medicine: a Health Care Millennium
A new era in health care and medicine is critically needed. A strategy for a rebirth of self-reliance is needed. A way to reduce overwhelming medical expenses and reduce the national debt is needed. A more humane and natural medicine is needed. The integrated system that the Chinese have developed is an excellent model to draw upon in the Western world to meet these needs. Were some of the Chinese model to be used in the West, it would go a long way toward creating a common, integrated medicine for the whole world.
An integrated, comprehensive, and multidisciplinary system of medicine, as well as a culture-wide sustainable tradition of self-care is crucial in America. Necessity demands innovation. The features of an emerging new structure for health care and medicine will not replace and are not really an alternative to conventional Western medicine. The emerging system must be collaborative. Integrative medicine and self-care need not be invented in America. Excellent resources for the development of these new features of American medicine are in place and highly refined in China and other cultures.
We are in a special time in the U.S. concerning the medical cost crisis. A new political era is at hand, a new scientific paradigm (the quantum) is affecting all levels of society, and our 3rd millennia is directly before us. Remember that by the Chinese calendar it is the actually the 5th millennia.
With the inspiration of new possibilities and with China as a mentor in health care and medical matters, enthusiastic support from business, education, and the media, along with the commitment of our citizens to reach out and grasp wellness through self-care, the U.S. can transform the medical cost nightmare. The economics of such a system in concert with military and other reductions can radically reduce the our budget deficit. By the millennia, with the united cooperation of all citizens, including the medical community and people from every social and economic level, the U.S. has the opportunity to create a completely new health care system and dramatically reduce the national debt.
Here, at the brink of the millennia, there is an opportunity for the human community to breakthrough to integrated ideas from the current "either/or" context, to embrace collaboration over competition, and to grasp the benefits of self-reliance in all aspects of life, including health. The best of science in collaboration with ancient wisdom, through a link between conventional Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, is a powerful strategy for achieving an "integrated world medicine."
By Roger Jahnke, OMD
Director of "Health Action", Santa Barbara, CA
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