Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Wellness Culture

© shiyali. Image from

I recently wrote about how reflexology could help save the health care system. I just received a bulletin from the Foundation for Integrated Health. In it was an article which caught my eye. the article is called, Creating a National Wellness Service. It focuses on an issue that is key to cutting health care costs, shifting from a focus on illness to an emphasis on wellness. In essence creating a "wellness culture".

"The priority for healthcare in the 19th century was public health. The priority in the 20th century was universal access to medical care for infectious and acute diseases. The priority in the 21st century is increasingly the management of chronic diseases, in an emerging partnership between individuals, social networks and medical services. This implies some radical changes to how health is organised." David Boyle

Mr. Boyle argues that the the National Health Service (NHS) has become a "sickness service" and should now move onto a "wellness service". We have done wonders with infectious and acute diseases but fallen short in addressing the chronic degenerative diseases that plague our societies.

"Without this clarity, the NHS will remain at the mercy of factors like pollution, stress, diet and patient isolation. Its delivery systems are not well-designed to tackle the growing problem of chronic disease (80% of GP consultations and 80% of the NHS budget now go on this), for which mutual support, social networks and complementary therapies are frequently more critical." David Boyle

80% of the problem is being addressed reactively and not proactively. It is like the highway department helping to build more body shops in response to traffic hazards. We aren't addressing the root causes.

The figure 80 % is interesting because it also extends to stress related disorders. This isn't a mystery. Some of us age well while others go into serious decline. Chronic degenerative diseases are accelerated by stress.

Reflexology addresses stress in a proactive way. It can help someone before the onset of some troubling disorder. Studies have shown that reflexology acts on cortisol. Cortisol is a well know stress hormone and is linked to our fight or flight response. Stress is a killer and by lowering cortisol levels we lower our risks of developing something more serious.

Reflexology also provides nourishment to the tacitly deprived. In other words, it can help people out of isolation.

We used to have an elderly lady who wore her mink stole to the office. She even brought her own hanger for the stole. We were her human contact for the week and the mink stole was her prize possession. And she wanted to share it with us. She felt connected.

High tech has done wonders for acute problems. There is actually a theory that the reason the murder rate has dropped has more to do with advanced medical procedures than with people shooting each other less often. So high tech medicine has done wonders with saving lives when an acute event has occurred.

But to cut costs and save our health care system it maybe time for "high touch". Instead of fighting sickness we need to embrace a culture of wellness. We need to reach out to the stressed and the lonely with reflexology and the other high touch modalities.

And to those who feel this is just a touchy feely sort of solution think of the money you will be saving. Remember that 80%.

Kevin Kunz

1 comment:

lynwyn said...

Hi there,
I could not stop my Hoel rising when I read this blog.
Having struggled with the backwards system of care in the NHS for 20 years this is something which has been an issue for as long as I've been around. Despite the physical evidence of peoples testimonies and the knowledge that living for wellness is the sensible way forward the money that continues to be made in the background holds more sway. In the 80's it was "it's not research based" or 'a return to quackery'. I'm afraid the lack of a united front meant this kept us down for a decade. In the 90's it was the lack of registration in Complementary Therapies that held it back. 'Anyone can do a 2 day course and call themselves a Therapist' 'Anyone can set themselves up and make money from vulnerable people' Our defence of what we believed in was inadequate in the extreme. I myself put off becoming qualified in my area of interest, massage and herbalism initially. I was frightened by the threat of litigation for practicing outside the accepted norms of my art, nursing at the point of entry into the system for many years and finally working in palliative care and elderly care in a community hospital. I was able to practice massage in this setting on a one to one basis but did not broadcast the fact for fear of attracting the attention of some over zealous young manager with a reputation to earn. The power they hold is difficult to stand up to as an individual.
The culture of distrust for our craft continues even stronger in the 21 century. Preventative medicine is not a new idea, its been around since the 1900's but is less profitable than the continuing trends in health care. The desire to be dynamic and think outside the box is nowhere to been seen in the NHS as it is today. 'Keep your head down and don't make waves' is the culture in our Manager heavy organisation. Everyone has a mortgage to pay after all. Our cause is not helped by some who are discrediting us by offering things they cannot deliver. We need to get organised and prove our worth. The power of touch is an ancient knowledge which need no explanation other than we are social, pack living creatures and need contact. The energy which exists between people when the right scene is set is something that all people can relate to surely. Does love not show us this.
Surely we can give the information we need to support our practice and move it back into the maintenance/preventative branch of health care where it has belonged for centuries.
Self help has always been disdained by those who seek to make a living from treating the symptoms not the cause. We can only hope that a more tolerant attitude can be fostered and we can all work side by side to achieve the goal of better health however we may find it.
I have now left the NHS in an attempt to come at health from a different angle full time. I'm afraid I haven't the fight to continue trying to make a difference in a big pond. I hope the Doctor who wrote this article can be of some influence but fear the time is not right in the current climate.
I have 20 years of real experience in the care of others and have practiced Holistic Massage and Reflexology as an ITEC qualified Therapist for 4 years and hope to have more impact by following this path than if I continue as a highly skilled and experience RGN and RNMH in the NHS, how sad it makes me to make this decision but one must follow ones head and heart at the end of the day.

End of rant. thank you for reading this.

Lyn from South Wales.