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Mind-Over-Matter In Medicine

[Recently] I came upon a Jan 24 op-ed, “A Fighting Spirit Won’t Change Your Life” by Richard Sloan, Ph.D., of Columbia University’s psychiatry department. Somehow I’d missed this worthwhile piece on the sometimes-trendy notion of mind-over-matter in healing and medicine.

Sloan opens with aftermath of the Tucson shootings:

…Representative Giffords’s husband describes her as a “fighter,” and no doubt she is one. Whether her recovery has anything to do with a fighting spirit, however, is another matter entirely.

He jumps quickly through a history of the mind cure movement in America: From Phineas Quimby’s concept of illness as a product of mistaken beliefs — to William James and “New Thought” ideas — to Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 “Power of Positive Thinking“ – to more current takes on the matter. These ideas, while popular, are not reality-based.

In his words:

But there’s no evidence to back up the idea that an upbeat attitude can prevent any illness or help someone recover from one more readily. On the contrary, a recently completed study* of nearly 60,000 people in Finland and Sweden who were followed for almost 30 years found no significant association between personality traits and the likelihood of developing or surviving cancer. Cancer doesn’t care if we’re good or bad, virtuous or vicious, compassionate or inconsiderate. Neither does heart disease or AIDS or any other illness or injury.

*Am. J. Epidemiol. (2010) 172 (4): 377–385.

The New York Times printed several letters in response, most of which point to pseudo-evidence on the matter. All the more reason to bolster public education in the U.S. — people won’t be persuaded by charismatic, wishful thinking about healthcare.

It happens I’m a fan of Joan Didion’s. I was so taken by the “Year of Magical Thinking,” in fact, that I read it twice. Irrational responses — and hope — are normal human responses to illness, disappointment, and personal loss. But they’re not science. It’s important to keep it straight.

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

Bend The Healthcare Cost Curve By Preventing Diabetes

By 2020, an estimated 15 percent of adults will have diabetes and 37 percent will have prediabetes, a total of 39 million people, compared with rates of 12 percent and 28 percent today, respectively.

Today, more than 90 percent of people with prediabetes, and about a quarter of people with diabetes, are unaware of it, according to a report from UnitedHealth Group, the provider of insurance and other health care services.

The health savings alone of preventing diabetes would bend the cost curve of health care spending in the country. Health spending associated with diabetes and prediabetes is about $194 billion this year, or 7 percent of U.S. health spending, the report said. That cost is projected to rise to $500 billion by 2020, or a total of almost $3.4 trillion on diabetes-related care.

Engaging the at-risk population could save up to $250 billion, or 7.5 percent of estimated spending on diabetes and prediabetes, in the next decade. Of that money, $144 billion, or about 58 percent, would come from savings in Medicare, Medicaid and health care exchange subsidies. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

“Behavioral Medicine” To Prevent Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs?

Educating individuals about the costs of healthcare could save money and lead to a more efficient use of the healthcare system, report policy researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine and Boston University School of Public Health.

You mean that people, when faced with facts about cost (and their end of it), choose the less-costly option? When did this start? Oh, yeah — we do it all the time — except in medicine, where our costs will bankrupt the country.

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

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