The New Heart of Health Care


There is a growing awareness by physicians and patients that one must consider not only the physical diagnosis but include the impact of mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences on health.

One aspect of this new direction is The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation’s “Choosing Wisely” campaign that educates both doctors and patients to question medical tests and treatments to avoid over-diagnosis and over-treatment. They developed a fun parody of Pharrell Williams hit “Happy” to advise us to think twice about health care before taking a pill or getting a medical exam.

And very interesting in the search for effective care are the findings of Harvard Medical School professors Dr. John Peteet and Dr. Michael D’Ambra. Their book, The Soul of Medicine: Spiritual Perspectives and Clinical Practice (2011) states, “Americans spend about $1.5 billion annually on books on spirituality and religion, and about 40 percent have sought out complementary and alternative therapies.”

By way of an example, I was a participant in a statewide initiative charged with developing healthcare reform recommendations for our legislature. During a meeting of medical and non-medical (I am a Christian Science Practitioner) providers, a physician had a comment for me. He said, “I believe prayer has a place at this table. I have had two patients with the same diagnosis. One chose to pray and the other did not. The one who prayed beat the prognosis. Over the years I have seen that prayer works, but I don’t know how.”

For me prayer begins with a yearning to listen to what some may call intuition or God’s grace. Often I turn to the scriptures to help me ponder something higher than the problem. About 5 years ago I was diagnosed with a very painful condition that required surgery. I mentioned to my HMO’s attending physician that I would like to pray before deciding to schedule surgery. He equated praying with doing nothing, telling me that the condition would not go away on its own but would continue to incapacitate me further.

Physical transformation by focusing on and living the word of God was first written about several thousand years ago. For instance the book of Proverbs tells us, “My son, attend to my words; …keep them in the center of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh.” And this is what I experienced. The pain disappeared and I have had no trace of that condition since.

Perhaps this new heart of health care is broader than was first thought!

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