What is Integrative Preventive Medicine?
Quite a few people ask me what I do, and I tell them that I am an Integrative Preventive Medicine Specialist who helps people use preventive and integrative tools to improve their health and longevity. I get a lot of blank stares. Let me explain the differences and similarities of these individual professions, and how they are intimately connected and are ultimately used in tandem to promote health and prevent disease.
Preventive Medicine focuses on the health of individuals, communities, and defined populations. Its goal is to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability, and death. The definition of preventive medicine has traditionally been described to encompass primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. The community is our patient, and we can go about diagnosing and treating the community using much the same thought processes as we do in treating individuals. Preventive medicine can be practiced by governmental agencies, primary care physicians and integrative medicine providers. Preventive medicine specialists possess core competencies in biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental and occupational medicine, planning and evaluation of health services, management of health care organizations, research into causes of disease and injury in population groups, and the practice of prevention in clinical medicine. They apply knowledge and skills gained from the medical, social, economic, and behavioral sciences.
Integrative Medicine may be described as orienting the healthcare process to create a seamless engagement by patients and caregivers of the full range of physical, psychological, social, preventive, and therapeutic factors known to be effective and necessary for the achievement of optimal health throughout the life span. It is healing-oriented medicine taking into account of the areas of mind, body, and spirit. Integrative medicine combines the discipline of modern science with the wisdom of ancient healing. It emphasizes a holistic, patient-focused approach to healthcare and wellness, and treating the whole person rather than one organ system. It aims for well-coordinated care between different providers and institutions.
For people living with chronic or life-threatening illness, it can transform the physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of their lives. Integrative medicine is also valuable to those who are not ill but wish to increase self-awareness and help prevent health-related problems.
Integrative Preventive Medicine then combines these aspects of Preventive Medicine and Integrative Medicine into a cohesive process of assessing the entire health of an individual person inside of their community as a whole. Integrative Preventive Medicine focuses on the unique expression of health and vitality of an individual in their environment. The fields of preventive medicine and integrative medicine share the objectives of promoting general health, preventing specific diseases, and applying the concepts and techniques of epidemiology toward these goals. Integrative Preventive Medicine puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.
Why is all of this important?
As behavioral and lifestyle choices account for THE VAST MAJORITY of premature death in the U.S., targeting these areas provides the greatest benefit for optimal health. For example, nutritional supplements such as fish oil and mind–body techniques are used to treat Type 2 diabetes. An anti-inflammatory diet, nutritional supplements, and manual therapies, such as acupuncture, have shown great efficacy in the management of rheumatoid arthritis.
Unfortunately, many of the most promising health improvement strategies — rooted in the evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention are not profitable for the traditional business models in the medical care sector. The business models of most care providers and the array of their suppliers (e.g., finance, pharmaceuticals, devices etc.) are geared towards marketplace reward for diagnostics and treatment but are not effectively incentivized to prevent disease in the first place.
The links between preventive medicine and integrative medicine are woven together so tightly, that it is almost impossible to practice one without the other. For those that are aware of this evolution in medicine, it will benefit patients the most; for those that are not aware of this, they will find themselves playing catch-up, as the healthcare terrain is everchanging. Victor Hugo famously said that there is nothing more powerful than an idea that has found its time. The idea of Integrative Preventive Medicine is finding its time, even if it is because our current system is ineffective and unsustainable. It will be the healthcare of the future.