Spirituality and health care

Committees on Publication Manager, Russ Gerber, recently reported that Pew Research found that 80% of us are online and that the most researched subject is health. Russ said that there is an abundance of information online about drug solutions to health problems, whereas there is not enough information about the mental and spiritual nature of health. This blog attempts to share some information about the health benefits of spirituality.

Spirituality is as old as God and the Bible. Today’s society broadly defines spirituality as what gives a person’s life meaning, yet it may not be a religious thing. Not all folks who are attracted by spiritual things want to define themselves as religious. Regardless, both acknowledge that spirituality has a positive effect on health.

The healing effects of spirituality in our modern era were loudly proclaimed by Mary Baker Eddy when she published her spiritual healing textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875. Here Mrs. Eddy defines spirituality as the spiritual, Christly nature of man, something that we can all demonstrate. The opposite of spirituality is materiality, which is what we all want not to demonstrate if we are yearning for spirituality.

More folks are thinking about spirituality and praying about their health, according to reports from the National Health Interview Survey. Three out of every four healthcare workers themselves use some form of complementary or alternative medicine to help stay healthy. Results from the survey of thirty thousand adults in 2002 and twenty-two thousand adults in 2007 revealed that about half of adults said they had prayed about their health during the previous year. Also, according the National Institutes of Health, 40% of us are spending $34 billion/year on complementary or alternative medicine. In this study, prayer is the largest component of ten alternative methods. Here is a link to the data.

Research shows that about 75% of medical schools offer spiritual care courses or include spirituality in their curricula. And most physicians and nurses acknowledge that spirituality matters. Yet some are finding it difficult to integrate spiritual care into their medical care. Most hospitals have spiritual care departments to do this. Many nurses and physicians strive to practice spirituality by giving the most compassionate care possible and maintain active relationships with their patients.

In a recent article titled “Hospitals offering alternative medicine tripled, based on patient demand”, published by Fierce Healthcare Daily News for Healthcare Executives, author Karen M. Cheung writes that forty-two percent of hospitals reported that they provide complementary and alternative medical services, and that patients are demanding it. Fifty-eight percent of hospitals also said that caring for the “whole person” was part of their mission.

Even the American Cancer Society states that spirituality and prayer help to heal cancer. You can read their report here. Recently a Dartmouth College professor stated in his class that religion improves wellness. “Believing in a religion enhances psychiatric well-being, fosters mental health and stimulates recovery,” psychiatry professor Rob Whitley recently stated in a lecture that was titled, “Religion and Psychiatry: Friends or Foes?” You can read the article here.

Over the years I have followed Dr. Larry Dossey for his understanding of consciousness being “non-local,” which he defines as “mind unconfined to the brain and body, mind spread infinitely throughout space and time.” You can view his website here. The head of the Florida Committee office, Bob Clark wrote a nice piece about Dr. Dossey. Bob’s article can be read here. A few excerpts:

Dr. Larry Dossey, who served as a battalion surgeon in Vietnam and later as Chief of Staff at the Medical City Dallas Hospital, describes three distinct “eras” of medicine in his book, Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing (HarperOne, 2000):

Era 1 medicine began in the mid-1800’s when patients were treated like mindless machines. Health and illness were seen as totally physical; surgical procedures and drugs predominated.
Era 2, which began in the mid-1900’s, ushered in the now widely accepted view that the human mind has at least some bearing on one’s health. Medicine was seen as including spirituality and prayer.
Era 3 is the future of medicine, a time when consciousness will be seen as central to health and healing.

Clearly the trend is that more and more people are using the simplicity of spirituality, prayer, complementary and alternative medicine to heal themselves. We are moving beyond depending solely on a complex, expensive drug-based healing system. This could lead more people to consider the teachings of Christian Science – that not drugs but God, divine Mind and divine Love, is the actual healer – as a valid approach to restoring and maintaining their health and well being. This would be good for society and should even bring the added benefit of helping to reduce health care costs.

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