Food for Thought, part 1

As part of this month’s lifeskill, Meals, we will be focusing again on how wellness has everything to do with not just the food you eat but also the thoughts you ponder. Wellness also has everything to do with those four basic applications mentioned in the previous article:

  1. Take care of your body–hygiene, quality nutrition, movement/exercise (age and condition appropriate), and stress management
  2. Quiet time–rest and repose
  3. Wholesome fun and laughter with family and friends
  4. A vibrant spiritual-faith life

I am sure questions still linger on how to go about living these four basics in a world of wellness dilemmas and possibilities with our nation’s evolving 21st century healthcare world. Then add how COVID-19 and any chronic health conditions have personally impacted your life and still do.

My hope is your family has embraced a new determination to reach for a higher level of wellness than at any time in your life. Yet, you are not alone with your ponderings. We all probably share many of the same questions and barriers to wellness with millions of Americans across our nation. Here are just a few examples of what physicians experience with their patients as they try to instill adherence to their treatment recommendations.

According to a comprehensive literature review and industry practitioner insights, Treatment Adherence in Integrative Medicine, An Executive Summary, by Integrative Medicine, A Clinician’s Journal in collaboration with FullScript, the results are an eye opener. I encourage you to obtain a copy of this Special Edition (Vol. 20, No. S2).

To start with, according to the Executive Summary, we need to realize “Treatment adherence is a topic that is well studied but not well understood. Low treatment adherence is a significant issue that limits the effective management and treatment of chronic conditions, creating significant healthcare burden, costs, and poor patient outcomes.” Yet, there does not seem to be a clear solution to solve treatment non-adherence.

The cost for U.S. non-adherence is estimated to be from $100-290 billion. About 30-69% hospital admissions are due to medication non-adherence. For conventional as well as integrative and functional medicine providers, the complexity of reasons require “. . . a personalized approach to understanding, identifying, analyzing, addressing, monitoring, and evaluating both the reasons for non-adherence and the strategies that may facilitate acceptance of and commitment to treatment plans.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 60% U.S. adults live with at least one chronic disease, and 40% adults live with two or more chronic diseases. Whether conventional, integrative, or alternative medicine, the rate of adherence treating chronic disease is 50%. These stats only emphasize the cost and complexity for solving our wellness barriers. We are all at times a stubborn and lazy patient. Yet, we are also generally more aware of possible treatment alternatives than just prescription medicine.

Doing our homework and talking with our doctors are even more important today with so much baffling and sometimes questionable alternative claims. Unfortunately, many of our 21st century healthcare providers are often not educated or practice more established alternatives. We patients then end up going to different practitioners who do not communicate with each other, only further complicating matters. We patients also often feel intimidated by our doctors, avoid asking questions, and opt in to just experiment on our own. Sometimes it works out. Other times, it does not and only complicates and confuses our wellness paths we are trying to take.

So, what factors cause adherence rates to decline for all patients over time? Although there are several hundred different barriers depending on stages of disease management, integrative practitioner surveys and interviews identified these as primary barriers to adherence:

  • Lack of practitioner/patient education & communication
  • Overall cost for both patient and practitioner
  • Lower feasibility or likelihood of adherence through complex interventions
  • Patients’ feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Patients not ready to change

How do you see yourself and your doctor with these barriers? Which ones are paramount and need to be addressed with your family and doctors? Here is one hint practitioners can embrace themselves among several to increase likelihood of adherence – Establish Trust.

While you consider these questions in the days ahead, the next article coming this month will hopefully offer answers to this question . . . “What factors help us patients with treatment adherence and improve our chronic conditions to reach our wellness goals?”

Remember, it takes two to establish trust. So, we patients also have our own set of choices and actions to take. As a professional lifeskills/wellness coach for many years, I recall how much my clients taught me as I helped them seek, reach, and achieve their life and wellness goals. That is where I still have my greatest passion…to help us all become proactive wellness seekers and advocates.

For that reason, I am considering starting a lifeskills/wellness advocacy support group, meeting online twice per month. Let us help each other make the connection together. Are you interested? If so, simply email me (info@celebratingyourjourney.com). I will keep you in the loop for when it starts and what our focus through time will be helping each other.