Expanding the medical model
In response to Patricia Talbot's Aug. 9 Valley Forum piece ("Community health centers save us money"), I'd like to acknowledge that Ms. Talbot outlines the rationale for the multitude of beneficial goals of broad primary care, and mentions how "each health center is accountable and responsive to the community it serves."
SVCHC is obviously a truly desirable gathering of interests in the production and delivery of conventional health care service in our community.
But the money conversation obscures a more important issue about health care, and that is the question of what truly is "primary care" and what clinically and economically is in the best interests of our community. As a state-licensed primary care provider, I have some association with and interest in this topic.
What's commonly called modern medicine is nothing like the complete picture of what primary care is in our community today, and yet its business plan and outlook presents itself as virtually the complete and worthy center of publicly-funded services.
The many worlds of what's come to be called "natural medicine" are now a substantial everyday component of health-related services for many. Whether a low-income worker sees a chiropractor for help with some structural needs arising from the heavy physical demands of agricultural labor, or the shop clerk seeks help with hormone imbalances and insomnia at the natural-medicine pharmacy or the acupuncturist, the desire for natural medicine forms of healthcare is pervasive.
National statistics reveal people are fully embracing what once had been called alternative medicine.
As a matter of commerce, our local conventional medicine systems have sought to hold these forms of service as "complimentary," indicating a subordinate fellowship.
In practice they have sought to largely ignore, and commonly dismiss, the essential relevance of these primary care services while their clients, who may choose this care, must find ways to pay out of pocket. I believe this should change.
In April, the Washington Post reported that, "At the Petaluma Health Center, in California's Sonoma County, patients are receiving evidence-based care that melds Eastern and Western medicine. An eight-week chronic-pain group, for example, introduces participants to a variety of integrative approaches to managing pain, including acupuncture, meditation and Qigong, and helps show them how nutrition and sleep habits contribute to pain"
A likely local rejoinder to this would be a money-centered answer: "We can't afford it."
But limiting our health care service options to chemical management of symptoms and other conventional means, while many of these are extremely important, holds the economic and clinical objectives to far too small an opportunity for health management and restoration.
And even if we are talking only about the federal dollars, why allow those to flow only toward one version of health care, when the garden could be broader and more fruitful by incorporating the natural, positive biology represented in many human health care needs.
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Ned Hoke is an acupuncture specialist and owns Natural Methods Healthcare in Sonoma.