A friend of mine, Joanna Smiley, writes for the Hartford Business Journal, and she recently wrote a fascinating article discussing naturopathy. Her interviews with Dr. Marina Franzoni-Acosta and Dr. Stacey Munro, both naturopathic physicians, revealed that many of insurance companies are unwilling to pay for the amount of time necessary to fully help their patients. The ironic factor is that naturopathy emphasizes preventative medicine and patient education, which over the years could save billions of health care dollars.
Despite my knowledge of the reasoning behind public health education, I was not, prior to this article, aware of the preventative measures naturopathic medicine takes for its patients. It’s a lot more “mainstream” than one might think in this regard. Think about it. Despite what field of medicine your primary doctor belongs to, I would bet that they give you advice on eating healthy; they give you advice on being physically active; they ask you about your family history of chronic conditions, to assess your risk; and in these conversations, they talk about what you can be doing to stay healthy.
Preventable causes of death, such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, and misuse of alcohol have been estimated to be responsible for 900,000 deaths annually — nearly 40% of total yearly mortality in the United States. This is startling, and from a policy perspective, you can’t ignore how much money could have been saved here. Study after study shows that primary and preventive care greatly reduces future health care costs.
For American Heart Month this past February, President Obama signed a proclamation. Among other things, it said, “We can all make changes one step at a time. Set realistic goals. Get encouragement from friends and family. Reward yourself. And above all, remember that taking action now can mean a longer, healthier life for you and those you love.”
I think we’re heading in the right direction. And as a social marketer, and as an implementer of public health education, it seems that policy makers and health care providers (be they naturopathic doctors, dentists, herbalists, gynecologists, you name it) have the same idea. Health education is important, saving lives, and saving dollars.