Is spiritual care a reform that spans the health-care divide?

Health-care reform – just two simple words. But the simplicity of the phrase belies the fact it is an issue … Continued

Health-care reform – just two simple words.

But the simplicity of the phrase belies the fact it is an issue that has convulsed the nation, commanding an untold number of column inches and consuming a massive amount of airtime.

Throughout the presidential campaign passions have continued to run high. As Election Day looms the issue remains one of the most contentious dividing the voters.

But for many people to whom “being healthy” seems a distant memory despite the best medical attention, these political skirmishes fall short of the mark.

To them, the heart of the matter is: “How can I get better?”

For many people, no amount of political tinkering with the medical status quo is going to provide a satisfactory answer to that question. That is why, despite their regular insurance payments, Americans are paying out another $33 billion from their own pockets every year for non-medical methods of treatment.

Perhaps more poignantly, even healthcare workers regularly choose other means for themselves. Research has shown three quarters of them “use some form of complementary or alternative medicine or practice to help stay healthy”. That’s a greater proportion than among the general public.

One of those non-medical methods is itself a process of reform – namely mind-body medicine, or changing the way one thinks.

Many people achieve this through spiritual practices like meditation, some of which have been secularized and made available as mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Another increasingly popular approach is prayer, according to a recent study published by the American Psychological Association. My Health News Daily reported:

To me, the best health-giving prayer is the kind Jesus practiced so effectively, according to the Scriptures. There is no record of him pleading for a miracle but plenty of evidence of the benefits of his call for individual reform. Of course, he used the word “repent”, which admittedly has taken on some heavy religious connotations over the centuries. But his original meaning was much more positive, according to author and syndicated columnist Suzette Martinez Standring. She said it pointed to a willingness to adopt a “new and life-changing mindset”, adding that “the word itself signified self-transformation, not self-blame”.

The prayer approach to mental reform I use has proved consistently effective for me during three entirely drugless decades and has left me feeling less tied to the winds of political change.

While not everyone would opt for prayer as their primary health care alternative, for many, the heart’s yearning for health holds within itself a deeper, more soulful aspiration than just medically managing symptoms. They want clinicians and other health care workers to mine the resource of what’s “significant or sacred” in their lives to help the healing process. For such people – from all sides of the political spectrum – a more spiritual framework within the current health care system is a constructive reform that could be implemented independent of either imposing new budget restraints or pandering to profligacy.

Indeed, spirituality in this broader sense is increasingly being recognized as an invaluable resource in helping to put people back on the road to health. For example, in recent years “a growing body of research investigating the relationship between religion, spirituality and health has led to a number of evidence-based guidelines for spiritual care and tools to help hospitals provide it”.

In addition, 90 percent of U.S. medical schools have courses or content on spirituality and health.

Health-care debates are too often conducted as epic political battles built on the presumption that all reform roads simply lead to new and better medical models. But if spirituality is a key component in getting better, then there remains an option for reform that will not cost big bucks but can make a significant difference.

However, it will demand an investment of the heart on the part of doctors, nurses and others working in the health care system to recognize and respond to the individuality of the patient, including their deeper spiritual needs.

Health-care reform in two simple words? “More spirituality!”

Tony Lobl, spirituality and health blogger and district manager and media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Follow on Twitter at @tonylobl.

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  • SODDI

    “Spiriual care”? That and $4 will buy you a bottle of aspirin. Hope you can meditate your way out of BLEEDING TO DEATH.

  • larryclyons

    Spiritual care. Sounds more like a scam to get more money into the hands of the churches. No thanks. Anything that will be covered by the ACA should be backed by scientific data. The so-called spiritual care does not. Its a myth.

  • PhillyJimi1

    You don’t believe that believing in a 2000 year old zombie is the ONLY way to save your soul from never ending torment for the fruit eating crimes of a rib woman who got tricked by a talking snake? And this is also the magical answer to our health care problems in this country?

    BURN forever Blasphemer!

  • Jonathan Lederman

    Thank you for this insightful piece about the power of prayer and the spiritual alternatives to being healthy. Louise Hay wrote a book Heal Your Life which has helped many people realize what made the body can heal the body. The key is to have insurance companies cover holistic practioners. I wish you much luck and success. Please visit http://www.the-spiritualawakening.com and let me know what you think.

    Stay Positive,

    Jonathan JDOGG Lederman