07/25/2007 01:16 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What Would Healthy Care Look Like?

In previous posts I've talked about the importance of healthy care vs. Health Care as it currently exists, stuffed into the big, deep pockets of Big Pharma and Big Insura. So, I promised a follow up: what would healthy care mean, and what would it look like? Do we have any idea what health even means anymore, and if we do, how would we get there? Lots of people are trying to be creative about this.

The system providers of Healthy Care are anyone who provides time, information, encouragement, support, and materials for helping people maintain their own health through the way they live, eat, work, relate to their families, etc. Personal responsibility has to be put into the context of a "CorpRobotized" citizenry. Many if not most people, aren't encouraged or allowed by circumstance to live healthy, and for many this includes having no choice but to work at jobs where they do not not earn a living wage. We have been CorpRobotized both to WORK a certain way in certain kinds of environments (time, work-load and financial stress, artificial light, fatty questionable foods, little balance of physical and mental work, easy access to the stimulant drugs of choice (caffeine, sugar, etc), and also to THINK a certain way: about what we need, don't need and must have in our personal, family and "consumer" lives.

This issue is about families and community and how they could/should support personal health, sickness and death. I know that many Americans were astonished to see Michael Moore's SiCKO and had no idea that other "modern" nations provide health care as a right and public utility to their citizens. I hope millions of people are sitting around thinking: "WHAT HAVE WE BEEN PUTTING UP WITH??" At the same time, the rest of the world has been watching as we plunder the planet for our life style "needs"... Often questionable needs that ironically tend to make us sick.

Disease care, child care, paid parental leave, living wage, a reasonably short work week and abundant sick and vacation time: these are the institutional or systems-based factors that make healthy care possible and likely. Among the more fundamental factors are: a healthy food supply, access to natural light, satisfying work, good water and air, and cultural encouragement to find contentment and satisfaction in things other than THINGS.

If the profit were taken out of health care system, no doctor's office or hospital would want so many sick people walking through the door: there would be absolute incentive to keep people healthy. We frequently see news of one disease alone, for instance diabetes, a largely PREVENTABLE disease, that is going to soon break the national bank.

In my early youth, long before I trained for the Chinese healing arts and acupuncture profession, I read a book, The Wheel of Health about the Hunza people: the details of how they ate, worked, breathed, breastfed, and generally stayed extremely healthy....all, of course, without any technological inputs...only their good food and a sensible way of living. I think they lived near the India/Afghani border..before Pakistan existed. The book was written in 1938.

In the book an experiment that was carried out by a British researcher in India in 1927 is described. In it, he created a very healthy environment for a population of albino rats,: good air, sunshine and cleanliness, and then he put them on the diet of the Hunza people. All disease ceased in the rat population.

The author concluded: "Now, the reader might think that a statement that any small 'universe' had been freed from disease would have created a profound impression amongst medical men. It did not......medical men (sic) are so accustomed to a great number of diseases, they cannot think of any small 'universe' without disease. In all revolutions this is the case. It is the established profession, or class or aristocracy, which finds it most difficult to think in terms of change." (page 33-34- 1948 printing) We can't all live like the Hunza did, exactly, but we better figure out a way to live that doesn't consistently make people very sick and biologically stressed. Despite continued long life-expectancy, we have high rates of extremely expensive middle-age morbidity and mortality in this culture at this time.

In the HEALTHY CARE SYSTEM, a truly preventative system, each adult has to be their own primary provider, and loving and responsive parents have to be the primary providers for children. We have to finally become clear that early disease screening is NOT prevention, although it is often a good idea. We have to be clear that TV and other media drug advertising is not Healthy-Care compatible, as it trains people to want, and then demand, drugs as the only informed way to take care of their problems. Such ads are dis-empowering, and are dismissive of health promotion and disease prevention.

What are the basic features of a HEALTHY CARE SYSTEM? They include:

A) Adequate, effective, diverse and culturally sensitive family planning resources, including natural fertility awareness.

B) Pre-pregnancy and pre-natal education and care to support and enable healthy pregnancy and natural child birth. American women have all but stopped believing that they are capable of giving birth to their children without routine and complex technological and pharmaceutical interventions.

This phase of healthy care will also include information about chemical (including drugs) and radiation exposure before, during and after birth

In all, this education and support will:

1. Decrease the rate of premature births

2. Decrease the rate of Cesarean section births

3. Increase the rate of natural vaginal births where both mother and baby are at their most alert and healthy throughout. This result would (research has shown):

4. Increase the rate of successful early breastfeeding, which would help assure:

5. An increase in the rate of successful sustained breastfeeding, allowing families to meet the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommendations for at least a year of breastfeeding as the main source of infant calories. World Health Organization recommends two years. These recommendations help to:

*Increase recognition that not breastfeeding leaves babies vulnerable to numerous short and long-term health problems, while breastfed babies have enormous health and psychological advantages, as do nursing mothers. Obesity, immune health, and allergy prevention are key here.

*Increase the recognition of human milk as one of the most valuable and threatened natural resources in the world.

6. Decrease the rate of neuro-developmental disorders related to pre-natal chemical and radiation exposure. Priority will be given to understanding the causes of the current increase in rate of autism, attention and learning problems and other neuro-developmental problems, what some researchers have called "a silent pandemic". Educational programs and policies banning and limiting human exposure to known toxins and mixtures of toxins will be implemented regardless of their economic impact because such policy is essential for human health.

C) A separate focus and program will be developed to engage obstetricians and pediatricians in more pro-active programs of breastfeeding promotion as a fundamental public health issue. This would include encouragement of the international "BABY FRIENDLY H OSPITAL" initiative and the end of the shameless promoting of artificial milk through the distribution of "Formula Bags" in Maternity Wards across the nation and the world. Parental leave policies such as those that exist in the Scandinavian and European countries would be developed to promote healthy family and community life and healthier infant feeding practices.

D) There will be a focus on child and general nutrition with an emphasis on instructing parents on the dangers of refined, polluted, sweetened, chemicalized and other processed foods to their children's development. (see Carol Simontacchi's book "The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying our Brains and Harming our Children".

Emphasis here will be on explaining the importance of whole, unprocessed foods, especially plant based foods, and understanding hormone disruptive elements in the food supply particularly related to pesticide and hormone residues in produce and animal products. Instruction about healthy fats will be available.

Acknowledgment will be made that eating slowly and calmly with plenty of time to "just eat", is important, and workplace, school and personal schedules will take this into account. School lunches will be improved, and at work, "working lunches" will be eliminated because they add to overall stress.

Attention will also be given to the epidemic of Diabetes II in the child and youth population and on diet and exercise factors that can prevent and help eliminate this problem.

One section of healthy care will be devoted to the importance of traditional diets for many immigrant populations. It's well known that fast food, junk food and "fat food" stores are often strategically placed in neighborhoods where immigrant populations become prey to their overly sweetened , overly fatty, overly advertised menus . This one of the factors contributing to the epidemic of obesity and Diabetes II

Emphasis will also be on the economics of buying healthier food. Many people operate under the convenient myth that "health food" is too expensive to afford. Let's be realistic. In light of the enormous, no, astronomical, amounts of money many people spend on everything from cigarettes to soda, cookies, cakes, ice cream and candy bars: the expense to buy organic vegetables and plant-based proteins (legumes) and whole grains is small. If you factor in the amount spent on beer, bottled water of questionable quality, and alcoholic beverages, "health food" starts to look cheap! In addition, cutting out just one or two animal food meals a week would save enough to make the "health food" of fresh vegetables and whole grains and legumes appear as a savings. This is a "win/win", because many nutritional experts are encouraging people to explore plant sources of protein as a way to get way from saturated fats and animal proteins. Cooking classes and menu planning will be funded and available as part of a rational healthy care system.

E) There will be a Healthy Care program component related to relaxation and stress reduction: This subject will be taken seriously in both schools and workplace. Workloads will be lessened which will help make people more rather than less productive. This means that the dire effects of rampant stress as it is effecting health today will be addressed by actually decreasing the stress levels in many different settings...not just telling overworked people to breath deep and stretch a little at their desk under artificial lights. This issue has to be taken seriously. Even little children are overly stressed today. Healthy food and relaxation are only one piece of undoing today's stress scourge.

Guided relaxation and stress reduction tools will be available to all

F) Basic instruction in practical meditation will be available to all

Practicing basic meditation skills can benefit all people and support rather than contradict people's religious or spiritual beliefs.

G) Exercise/fitness training will be approached as a basic element of healthy balanced life-style. Opportunity to do regular outside physical work is ideal, but difficult in an urban setting. Creativity in this realm is called for.

* Simple aerobic exercises will be taught that people can do almost anytime or place, and patients will be encouraged and allowed time to practice them regularly. (Check out my radio show "Time to Relax" on WKZE radio/ Red Hook New York on the internet)

*Simple yoga-based stretches will be taught and all patients will be encouraged to practice them daily. Simple chi-kung (Chinese energy exercises) will be taught as a basic health maintenance tool.

*Simple principles of self-acupressure on some useful acupressure points will be taught to all patients. I've found in my relaxation classes that such instruction is very empowering as people see that they can really effect the way they feel with relatively little skill learning and practice.

H) Current research on the effects of excessive TV, video and screen watching on both children and adults will be shared. Monitored, but not overly supervised PLAY will be encouraged for all children with less emphasis on early academic achievement. Studies have shown that children who are allowed free creative play as little children do much better academically later when higher order abstract thinking and creating skills are called for. The whole emphasis on "teaching to the test" will be reconsidered, and hopefully will diminish.

I) The importance of natural full spectrum light will be taught and emphasis given to going outside as much as possible, particularly for an appropriate amount of time at mid-day to increase UVB exposure, the kind that stimulates Vitamin D production. Workers will be urged to go outside and take Vitamin D breaks in the middle of the day. The extent to which Vitamin D deficiency has become rampant will be addressed and people will avoid sunscreen and get adequate Vitamin D through proper and appropriate skin exposure to sunlight. Research now links lack of adequate exposure to enough sunlight to serious health problems, including various cancers. Instruction will be given on how to avoid over exposure to sun light.

H) Sexuality must be approached positively and safely as a basic element of a healthy and well balanced life style. A tolerant, open minded and culturally respectful approach will be cultivated in regard to related public policy.

J) General information for "green" consuming and non-toxic life style will be a part of the healthy care system. The main message will be to use as little of everything as possible. DE-CYCLING is even more important than re-cycling or re-using. Ask whether or not you really need something...and then if not...DON'T GET IT IN THE FIRST PLACE . Work to re-define what "really need" means, taking global and earth considerations in to account.

*Emphasis will be on avoiding toxic chemicals and plastics in day to day life, in food, in cleaning products, in personal care products, in yard and garden care. Information on non-toxic alternatives will be provided. Advice on air purifiers and plants which clean inside air will be available to all.

This is just the beginning of the details of "healthy care". We all know that positive consumer choices are already shaping the future of self care and health in the US and abroad. The meteoric rise of large whole foods grocery stores is one example of what is possible when people demand better quality and healthier choices. Equally, or even more important though, is the development of LOCAL FOOD AND PRODUCTION economies which honor small scale local farmers, manufacturers, craftspeople, and other local production in communities across the country.

Health is not a separate category of life, nor is Healthy Care. Unfortunately, our whole society is trained to have completely unrealistic expectations and demands about suffering, sickness, and death. We whine when life brings problems, but life has always had it shares of sorrow, sadness, sickness, and of course, always, death. Acceptance of this truth would help us move closer to attitudes that would help us happily take care of ourselves, maintain our well-being, heal our wounds and dis-eases (sometimes with the aid of wondrous technology), and die peacefully when our time comes.

Please share your own healthy care practices here and pay them forward for others to use. What are your most idealistic, creative, thoughtful ideas about developing the Healthy Care System.