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Health Care vs. Disease Care
by Janet Hoffman    Translate This Article
24 January 2016

The Merriam-Webster medical definition of heath care is: the maintaining and restoration of health by the treatment and prevention of disease especially by trained and licensed professionals (as in medicine, dentistry, clinical psychology, and public health).

But to dig deeper, consider the etymology of the word health. From Old English: wholeness, a being whole, sound or well. And even more relevant to a comprehensive discussion of health, consider the usage from Middle English: wholeness, but also prosperity, happiness, welfare; preservation, safety.

Good health is more than just the absence of disease. Health care is the creation and maintenance of the full potential of life in all its aspects—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. It is only when health care is not sufficient that disease care is needed. It is more in the interest of the individual and the interests of society to create and maintain health, therefore the emphasis of education, research, funding and services should be on building health and on prevention of disease rather than on treatment of disease. Does the health profession need to adjust its focus?

The modern adapted version of the Oath of Hippocrates, still used in some medical schools, states, ''I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.''

Prevention isn't a popular pastime of the US population because we don't want to dwell on the potential for becoming sick when we are actually feeling healthy—we just want to enjoy our good health. Most people don't address prevention more than following a routine of popping vitamins or supplements, sometimes exercising, and inconsistently following a healthy diet. A lot of Americans think they are too busy to put prevention into action regularly, so skipping exercise seems justifiable and fast food is just, well, faster. It's not until a health problem sends up a red flag that we take much notice.

Reducing stress is a direct path to successful disease prevention. But stress has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Accumulated stress can produce psychosomatic disease—disease caused or complicated by stress—including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, asthma, allergies, headaches, and even cancer. Chronic or acute stress can cause us to be angry, anxious, depressed, and have insomnia. It can lead to substance abuse, failed career, and failed relationships.

Until research on the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique became well-known, the importance of reducing stress for mental, physical and emotional health was understood to some degree but health professionals didn't know any effective evidence-based means of significantly reducing stress. Physicians and researchers have come to see that the TM technique effectively reduces stress—not manages it, but actually reduces it.

A study based on Blue Cross/Blue Shield statistics and published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 1989 showed that people practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique needed less than half of hospital treatment than the study subjects who hadn't learned TM. These findings were found to be significant in all aspects of disease across the board—from infectious disease to heart disease to skin disease to disease of the nervous system.

By any effective means, cardiovascular disease should be prevented. Women especially need to be aggressive about living a healthy lifestyle for prevention. The AHA's approach of choice is to reduce the risk factors that lead to cardiac events and mortality, rather than waiting for an onset that is diagnosable. Between the ages of 40-60, 80 percent of women have at least one heart disease risk factor that can be controlled. The American Heart Association claims that more than 70 percent of cardiac events in white people and more than 90 percent in black people have potential to be prevented. In 2013, the AHA stated that the TM technique was the only meditation that significantly reduces hypertension, which in turn leads to reduced risk of stroke and heart attack.

More than 360 peer-reviewed published studies on the TM technique have shown remarkable potential to prevent (and reduce) disease, including reduction of stress, increased resistance to stress, and faster recovery from stress. ''No other 'stress management technique' has anywhere close to this amount of hard data in support of its claims to reduce stress.'' — Norman Rosenthal, M.D., Georgetown Medical School; previously senior researcher at NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)

Prevention should be the focus of every parent, educator, researcher and physician. As Benjamin Franklin said, ''An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.''

Our goal in life is not just the prevention of illness. Fulfillment in life is derived from the experience of completeness, or inner wholeness, the symptoms of which are happiness, harmonious relationships, success, progress and peace. The TM technique helps us realize these goals of life through full brain development, elimination of stress, and enlivening consciousness—the pure state of infinite potential that lies within. Transcendental Meditation can deliver us from the need for disease care but, more importantly, it brings the individual to a state of enlightenment—healthy life mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

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Janet Hoffman is the U.S. executive director of the Transcendental Meditation program for Women Professionals

Copyright © 2016

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