A Better Litmus Test for Healthcare Reform

By James S. Gordon MD

David Leonhardt’s “prostate cancer test” (The New York Times, July 8, 2009) is a good but incomplete one for healthcare reform.

In addition to removing financial incentives for high tech intervention, we need to educate clinicians in the impartial, critical analysis of all therapeutic options, and in supporting their patients as they act on the choices they make. For 10 years, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine has trained health professionals and patient advocates to do precisely this, as “CancerGuides®.”

We need as well to realize that expensive, Draconian treatment and “watchful waiting” are not our only choices. There is, as Dean Ornish is showing with peer-reviewed studies on prostate cancer – and a number of us are doing with heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, depression and post traumatic stress disorder – a far more promising third way. It is grounded in techniques of self-care – dietary modification, physical exercise, and mind-body approaches like meditation and yoga – and in group education and support.

This approach holds great promise for treating and preventing chronic illness of all kinds and for saving large sums of money. It should be central to healthcare reform.

A shortened version of this was published in the New York Times online Letters section on July 21, 2009.