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Integrative Medicine Hits Washington DC

March 31st, 2009

Health care reform is on the way, and the Institute of Medicine has begun to grasp the consumer demand for patient-centered health care. The Institute of Medicine, established in 1970 under a charter of the National Academy of Sciences, serves as an adviser to the nation to improve health and health care. The Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public. The mission of the Institute of Medicine embraces the health of people everywhere. As a result of this mission statement, the Institute convenes annually and this year, in Washington, DC, for their annual symposium, they assessed the value of integrative medicine and its potential role in overcoming the current fragmented health care delivery system.

The symposium included presentations and panel discussions by some of the most influential integrative physicians in this country. In addition, other practitioners from across the country, I included, were given the ability to voice their opinion, as a matter of public record, to discuss existing systems of integrative medicine that currently exist and work in our communities.

The discussions focused on the potential of creating an integrated model of medicine that could improve our current health care system. The collective theme that was understood was that health care needs to shift to a system that is patient centered, preventive in nature, grounded in evidence, and promoting health as opposed to the “sick care” system that exists today. Both speakers and attendees felt that embracing integrative medicine could improve the outcomes and efficiency of the health care system in America. Much time during the symposium was spent creating a unified definition of what integrative medicine actually means.

Universal themes that were generally agreed upon suggested that integrative medicine focuses on preventive maintenance of health by attention to all relative components of lifestyle, including diet, exercise, stress management, and emotional well-being. Mehmet Oz discussed how the current medical model chooses to ignore the value of lifestyle changes, nutrition, and nutritional supplements for prevention because of the perceived lack of sufficient evidence. He also pointed out that we continue to reimburse procedures such as angioplasty and the use of stents in cardiovascular medicine when the evidence from clinical trials shows that these procedures do not actually decrease the incidence of deaths from heart attacks. Dr. Oz emphasized that lifestyle changes are more potent than drugs and have no side effects and can actually reverse heart disease.

Now is the time to have your voice heard. Contact your Congressional representatives and senators and let them know how important you find the role of integrative medicine in this country and its ability to truly address the causes of chronic disease. Preventive medicine is the key to lowering health care cost in this nation and improving quality of life for all. Your voice matters.

Above Photo: Gaia Herbs sets aside land on their organic herb farm to grow fruits and vegetables for employees. This is a part of Gaia Herbs’ overall health plan for the company and recognizes the importance of fresh organic food for long-term health.

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