Thursday, March 10, 2011

‘Health Care You Can Live With: Discover Wholeness in Body and Spirit’ by Dr. Scott Morris with Susan Martins Miller – Book Information/Q & A

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In this post, I want to share some information on a new book entitled ‘Health Care You Can Live With: Discover Wholeness in Body and Spirit’ by Dr. Scott Morris with Susan Martins Miller. I have not read the book as yet, but I look forward to doing so. It is right up my alley – taking responsibility of your health care as opposed to ceding the control to the medical industry, and more preventative care as opposed to care after the damage has been done.

Here is the synopsis of this important book:

The Health Care System May Be a Mess – But You Don’t Have to Be. Your health and wellness belong to you – and you alone. While it’s true that doctors and the health care system play a role in your care, they’re only one part of true wellness. If you’re ready to venture into real health, read this book.
Dr. Scott Morris, founder of the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee – the largest faith-based clinic of its kind in the United States – shows how your physical health is affected by your spiritual well being.
In Health Care You Can Live With, Dr. Morris explains how
·         health care went wrong
·         the church offers real answers
·         you can take care of your own wellness
Showing that healing – both physical and spiritual – is a key aspect of the Christian faith, Health Care You Can Live With provides an understandable framework for wellness and the encouraging real-life stories of those who found a better life within the overarching love of God.

Here are the biographies of these authors:

Dr. Scott Morris is a family practice physician and ordained United Methodist minister who founded the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee. The center, formed in 1987 to provide quality health care for working, uninsured people, has grown to become the largest faith-based clinic of its type in the United States with more than 36,000 patient visits per year.

Susan Martins Miller has been writing books for more than twenty years. She has nearly sixty titles to her credit in various genres – including children’s, adults, and ministry oriented. Colorado Springs is home, where she lives with her husband and two young-adult children.

Here is the trailer for this valuable book:

Here is an interview with Dr. Scott Morris. The compassion of this man makes me even more enthused about reading this book! I particularly appreciate his perspective on pharmaceutical medication; so refreshing to see this from a physician.

Q: You founded Church Health Center in 1986. How did that come about?

I first came to Memphis in 1986. I had no personal ties to Memphis and did not know anyone here. Having completed theological and medical education, I was determined to begin a health care ministry for the working poor. This was not a light bulb that suddenly went on. I dreamed of it for years as I slugged my way—sometimes impatiently—through the training that would make it possible. When the time came, I chose Memphis because historically it is the poorest major city in the United States. I instigated relationships with St. John’s Methodist Church and Methodist Hospital in Memphis, found an old house to rehab, and rolled up my sleeves. The next year, the doors of the Church Health Center opened with one doctor—me—and one nurse. We saw twelve patients the first day.

Q: What makes Church Health Center unique from other community health centers?

Today we handle about 36,000 patient visits a year and 100,000 visits to our wellness facility. A staff of 250 people shares a ministry of healing and wellness. Hundreds more volunteer time and services, and a network of medical specialists makes certain the uninsured working poor get the same quality of health care as anyone with a Cadillac insurance plan. Fees slide on a scale based on income. But what really sets us apart from other community clinics around the country is that Church Health Center is fundamentally about the Church. We care for our patients without a penny of government funds because God calls the Church to healing work. Jesus’ life was about healing the whole person—body and spirit—and the Church is Jesus in the world. His message is our message. His ministry is our ministry.

Q: One thing most people can agree on is that health care in the United States today is a mess. Why do you think efforts to reform health care so far have failed?

Efforts at health care reform fail because they avoid the essential questions of wellness. The starting point is off kilter. Our health care system is built on the premise of waiting for people to break in some way and then come through our doors, where we will use our technological wizardry to fix them. “Access to health care” has come to mean having a card that lets you get through those doors. That’s not health care. Caring for health means attending to the things that keep people well long before they break and need the door to technology. And believe it or not, doctors are only one part of true health care.

Q: You say that we have developed an unholy love affair with technology in health care. What do you mean by that?

Technology and business have hijacked health care. One hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, physicians had little to offer patients other than a sympathetic bedside manner and a handful of pharmaceuticals. New medical technology of the twentieth century remarkably improved our ability to treat disease and improve the quality of life. With the help of technology, we figured out how to fix a lot of things that go wrong in the human body. People got healthier and generally lived longer. Today we believe that no matter what the situation, technology can solve the problem. No matter how I’ve lived my life, no matter what I eat, no matter how many cigarettes I smoke, no matter how long I sit on the couch—technology can fix what happens when I persist in unhealthy habits. I can go to the doctor, and the doctor will know how to fix the problem. And if a little technology is good, imagine what we could do with a lot of technology! The medical community has become like restless teenagers who insist on having the newest electronic gadget. We’ve built an entire economy around buying the latest technology, and this includes the way doctors practice medicine. But our thirst for new health care technology is irrational. It doesn’t make the patient better.

Q: Do you feel similarly about pharmaceutical medication?

The state of prescription medications follows the same pattern as technology. The Federal Drug Administration rates new drugs based on whether they represent significant improvement over the drugs already available. In the last twenty years, the overwhelming majority of new drugs the FDA considered were “me too” drugs. They look just like something already in use as a generic. Perhaps developers changed a molecule or two to be able to present the chemical combination as a new product. In the last twenty years, the FDA has not rated more than a handful of drugs as true improvements. Yet we see drugs with catchy new names advertised on television every day. People go into a doctor’s office convinced they need a particular medication, but the ads are aimed at physicians. Doctors will say the advertisements don’t affect them, but the ads are incredibly effective. But the prescription medications and over-the-counter bottles essentially act the way poison acts. They invade the body to prevent it from doing something the body is trying to do naturally. That’s how a poison works—it stops a natural process from happening. In general, this is the way medications work. People believe drugs cure disease, but they don’t. Rather, they interfere with a process gone wrong so that your body’s own immune system can kick in and take over.

Q: In Health Care You Can Live With you take the reader through a history of health care in the United States. When did medicine and health care become big business?

People who could afford private doctors continued to call the doctor to their homes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hospitals were places for the poor to go when they had no other option. People with options did not go to the hospital. And then, around the 1930s, the people of means began to notice something unexpected. People in hospitals got well! People in hospitals did better than people who stayed home and called the doctor in. This was exciting stuff. Now people who were not poor wanted to get involved with hospitals—but they didn’t want to pay for them. After all, the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians were doing such a good job paying for everything. But technology advances don’t come cheap. Starting in 1965, federal money poured into funding hospitals. The arrival of these government programs triggered spending billions of dollars on developing a hospital system for the poor and elderly. Hospitals found a way to actually make money by taking care of sick people. Across the country, health care became the largest employer in city after city. People carried little cards that guaranteed someone else would pay the hospital. The more services the hospital provided, the more money someone paid them.

Q: What health system do you believe will make people healthier?

Prevention. Understanding what it means to be well, body and spirit. The heart of a health care system that focuses on keeping people well—preventing bodily breakdowns—requires a return to the belief that caring for people’s health is a helping profession, not big business. That’s a huge corner to turn at this point in time. True health care reform would focus on keeping people healthy so they need less technology, rather than presenting access to technology as the answer to every bad habit.

Q: Can you give an example of how we can use prevention?

Take childhood obesity as an example. It’s frequently in the news, and it should be. We are raising a generation of kids who go home from school, sit on the couch, play on the X-Box, and eat junk food. These obese children will be adults who have hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks, and trouble finding employment. But we have to do more than talk about it and look at pictures of sedentary children eating processed food. If we dedicated resources to fighting obesity through preventing it in the first place, we could make a far greater difference in the health of a generation than will ever come from developing a next generation MRI or new drugs for erectile dysfunction. Because of our love affair with technology, we are failing to give children hope for their own futures. While we debate how to give them access to technology in the event that their bodies break down—and they will—we overlook giving them the love and joy and self-understanding essential to the real health of the whole person.

Q: You write about the real way to health. What is that way?

I no longer see health as the mere absence of disease. Health is built around community and grounded in the spiritual life that embraces the physical bodies God gives us. Instead of the absence of disease, I see health as the presence of those elements that lead us to joy and love, and that drive us closer to God. Living longer is not the goal for a healthy life. Loving more fully, with all our capacity, will define a well-lived life. If you want real health, you have to start with the real you. Understanding that God cares about your body may be a new starting point, but it is the right starting point. You honor God when you care for your body. The health care system may be a mess, but you don’t have to be. Reclaiming your health begins with reclaiming God’s view of the real you. And we know ourselves most fully when we know ourselves in relation to God as whole beings, body and spirit. Our bodies disappoint us. But none of this means that the body is not at the heart of how we know God. Jesus lived in connection to God without separating body from spirit. He understood that his life had purpose and meaning—precisely through his physical experience, not in spite of it.

Q: You discuss how we have created a separation of our body and spirit. What do you believe caused this duality?

The Renaissance of western culture and the Reformation era of church history. The union of body and spirit cracked. This came to a head in the era of Martin Luther and John Calvin, who “protested” certain theology and practices in the Church. The result was “Protestants” who pursued a new understanding of the Church. When they broke away from the established Church for theological reasons, however, they also detached from the structure that historically cared for the sick. Protestants were going to have to find their own feet on the question of a healing ministry, and this did not happen right away. On the other hand, new and improved medical understanding flew in every direction. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scientific understanding—including the practice of medicine—mushroomed. Charles Darwin proposed theories that explained a lot of things without having to bring religion into the discussion. Scientists tugged at the shroud covering the workings of the human body, and a new profession of medicine joined the game. People no longer saw the Church as the place to go for care and curing when they were sick. Instead, doctors cared for the body, and it was the Church’s job to look after the spirit. From a biblical point of view, we cannot separate body and spirit. God simply never meant for that to happen.

Q: How do we move from what health care is to what it should be?

Change starts with individuals, not with legislation. Change in your health care starts with you. Set goals you can keep, draw on the support of your family and friends, don’t wait for a crisis, and ultimately share your vision of wellness with others. Health care we can live starts with growing a new culture that features dignity, community, giving, and prevention.

Q: Do you think the Church has a role in reforming health care?

Churches—and individual Christians—can get back in the game by reclaiming their own understanding of wellness and care that promotes health. We don’t have to buy into the belief that technology is the answer to everything—in fact, we know it’s not. Individual choices make a difference. We can turn the discussion away from questions of costs and systems to questions that connect us to God in the way he means for us to be connected. Jesus asks us to care about what he cared about—wellness and wholeness. Healing that flows through personal care, preventive activities, medical methods, and technology announces that the kingdom of God is here. We cannot separate healing from the gospel message. If we’re going to do what Jesus did, and as his first century followers did, we must find some way to be involved in a ministry of healing. The Church—the body of Christ—must show the here-and-now nature of the kingdom of God through healing. Churches face the question of what a healing ministry looks like and come up with answers that fit their situations. It might be a monthly free medical clinic in which Sunday school rooms transform into exam rooms and the fellowship hall is a waiting room. It might be congregations banding together to offer a children’s wellness clinic before the start of each school year and give kids shots, screenings, and school supplies. It might be commitment to regular financial and volunteer support at a community clinic that touches the lives of people who would never come through a church door. It might be a parish nurse who makes herself available to people in the congregation for questions in times of wellness and a comforting presence in times of illness.

Q: You write in Health Care You Can Live With that “sometimes we have the most profound growing experiences when we least expect them, when they don’t fit into carefully laid plans.” Can you give an example of a growing opportunity you experienced?

In the early days of the Church Health Center, I worried about people taking advantage of our low-cost services. Would people come in and not tell the truth about their financial resources? Since we operated on the goodness of people’s gifts, I felt an obligation to make sure we were good stewards of the gifts. That included making sure people who came through our doors did not abuse our system. So I used to do parking lot patrol. At random intervals, I wandered through the parking lot and inspected the cars. If I saw a car that looked like the driver was doing pretty well, I would find out who drove it. One day I found a Jaguar. I stormed through the clinic until I found the driver and demanded to know why someone who could afford to drive a Jaguar came to the Church Health Center. It turned out to be an older guy who worked for the Jaguar dealership in some low level capacity. That day his own heap of junk wouldn’t start, so his boss gave him the keys to his own vehicle—a Jag—so he wouldn’t miss his appointment with the doctor. After that day, I ceased the parking lot patrols. Do some people take advantage of us? Quite likely. But we don’t always know the whole story, and jumping to conclusions because we’re trying to protect ourselves actually can get in the way of providing health care to the poor. And I realized that protecting ourselves is not what the Church is about.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Barbour Books and provided by The B & B Media Group for review purposes.

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