According to a recent report from Time Magazine, Americans are spending close to $34 billion on “complementary and alternative medicine” which includes therapies like acupuncture, herbs, massage therapy, and yoga. This figure represents 11.2% of all out of pocket expenditures and is not limited to hippies and yogis but extend to 38% of the adult population seeking remedy for specific ailments.
Exciting news for a society that is in the midst of a national health care debate. The message that these numbers convey is that the way Americans view their health is shifting. Even as the media is reporting economic decline and the cost of health insurance increases, Americans are valuing themselves and their health more and more. The mentality is shifting from symptom- based treatments to whole person based therapy designed to bring health to all aspects of the physical and mental bodies.
Choosing alternative methods for healing shows that we are gaining an understanding of our whole self, and not simply our list of symptoms. We are shifting our understanding of health away from the idea that we are compartmentalized units of bones, muscles, organs, blood and mind to the fact what we do to treat our symptoms affect our bodies as a whole. We, as Americans, are becoming more conscious of all levels of health, and less hesitant to make the choices it requires.
But, is awareness of our health recognized by the governmental and corporate powers that hold the financial keys to health in their hands? Well, not exactly. Alternative medicine and health treatments remain just that, alternative. But, some health insurance plans are beginning to recognize their value on the preventative plane. Some plans are offering rebates or discounts for things like acupuncture and yoga. But, most traditional plans that recognize these alternative therapies continue to overlook their power after a diagnosis. They are not seen as valid treatments based on the Western medical model, and are not valued as highly.
So in this time of healthcare debate, and hopefully decision, may the voice of 38% of the adult population be heard. May those in government that hold the responsibility of representing “we the people” be made aware of the value Americans place on these “alternative and complementary” therapies, and find a way to include them in our healthcare plans. Imagine how many more people would seek out treatment of the whole self if it was supported by their healthcare plans. In the end, not only would it greatly benefit our ability to choose maintaining health above treating symptoms of disease, but it would greatly boost those who have chosen the professional path of alternative and complementary health, which is probably an equally high number of our adult population in America.