It’s safe to say some limitations of conventional medicine were revealed over the course of the pandemic. To understand why, take a look at the numbers. Of the close to one million people who have lost their lives so far due to the virus, 76 percent also suffered from one or more chronic diseases. These include conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and obesity. In one study, diabetes alone was associated with 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
None of this should be surprising. Even before the pandemic, around 6 in 10 Americans were already living with at least one chronic condition, making these diseases the leading drivers of the nation’s $3.8 trillion annual health care costs. Despite this, conventional medicine has long failed to prioritize chronic disease prevention, focusing instead on treating symptoms primarily through prescription medications. What’s more, as many as 4 in 10 patients put off preventative care, such as cancer screenings, during the pandemic.
The short-term, often fragmented approach of the conventional medicine model clearly has not done enough to alleviate chronic conditions that have plagued the U.S. for decades, which has made a profound impact on the resiliency of our nation while under siege by a virus. It is time to reshape our priorities and redefine what “health” really means to our population.
The value of adding functional and integrative medicine to your medical team
While functional and integrative care models may not be as well-known as conventional strategies, they help address the significant shortcomings that have long hampered our approach to effective health care.
Instead of simply treating symptoms, functional and integrative care models provide a more comprehensive approach to health by examining the root cause of disease and considering whole-person health. In addition to a patient’s medical history and baseline health, functional and integrative care explores lifestyle, stress, mental and spiritual well-being, and even community connection. A patient’s unique genetics and specific biological systems may also be examined in order to uncover any possible triggers of disease. Many of these factors can lead to the discovery of a root cause of a condition, whether it be nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, high levels of stress or disrupted sleep.
When it comes to addressing illness, functional and integrative medicine do not prioritize medications that often leave a patient worse off than before. Chronic medication use often fails to address underlying causes, merely serving as a bandage to an otherwise larger issue. A functional and integrative approach addresses an illness by tackling the root cause of a condition, which can alleviate downstream symptoms of disease. In addition, functional and integrative medicine’s ultimate goal is to not only address a current illness, but also prevent disease and promote long-term health optimization.
The best of both worlds
Of course, functional and integrative care models should not entirely replace conventional care. Conventional medicine is needed for acute care — a broken arm cannot be treated through diet and exercise. However, population health could greatly benefit from a model of care that provides the best of both worlds – conventional blended with functional and integrative. This leaves room to address acute issues if needed, while also prioritizing the body’s own healing mechanisms and focusing on disease prevention.
When it comes to preventing harm from a possible next pandemic (or at least mitigating its effects), we will be required to take a more nuanced and multifaceted approach to our health. We must guard long-term health by looking beyond our current health care system and incorporate functional and integrative approaches to care.
Schedule a meet and greet to talk to an expert and see how precision health care can benefit you.