Science has demonstrated several factors that profoundly influence health, longevity and the ability to recover from illness. In educating health professionals and the public, The Foundation for Integrated Medicine will concentrate its efforts by disseminating information concerning four of these factors. They are:
(1) Strong interpersonal relation-ships, including both the network of family, friends and community involvement that is referred to as "social support" and the relationship between the person who is sick and the caregiver. Helping people to nurture the bonds of closeness with others is the first goal of Integrated Medicine. Helping health professionals improve their skillfulness in the science of caring for patients is the second. Doctors demonstrate skill in the science of caring when they listen to their patients' concerns, elicit and acknowledge their patients' viewpoints, meet their patients' needs for information and encourage their patients to become active in their own care. Study after study shows that doctors who follow these principles get better results, independently of the diagnosis or the specific treatment that is given.
(2) Sound nutrition. Poor nutrition is the leading cause of immune deficiency, worldwide and within the United States. North Americans, unfortu-nately, obtain about one-third of their total calories from nutrient poor junk food. Even well-educated, presumably well-nourished adults taking nutritional supplements frequently do not consume nutritionally adequate diets and, despite their supple-ments, fall short in their con-sumption of important minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. The vitamin E levels of U.S. children are markedly lower than those of Japanese, German, Austrian or Canadian children, suggesting that children in the U.S. may as a group suffer from Vitamin E deficiency. Healthy chil-dren with lower vitamin E levels have impaired immunity on laboratory testing. When apparently healthy adults are followed for ten years, those people who have impairment on those same laboratory tests of immune function have twice the mortality rate of those with normal immuni-ty. Study after study has found that vitamin and miner-al supplements improve the immune function of elderly Americans. The specific nutrients with the most profound effects on immune function are essential fatty acids, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folic acid and iron. Helping people build optimum immunity through nutrition is a third goal of Integrated Medicine.
(3) A hygienic environment. Numerous studies conducted in U.S. cities demonstrate a close correlation between daily death rates and exposure to small particles of dust, even at levels of pollution that are considered safe by the World Health Organization. Community-wide pollution has been well established as a cause of respiratory ailments, but its effects extend beyond the respiratory tract. The rate of cancer among suburban women increases with outdoor exposure to airborne dust parti-cles. In the industrialized nations of the world, people spend ninety per cent of their time indoors and the greatest airborne health risks may be posed by indoor air pollutants. The rising incidence of childhood cancer in industrialized countries is probably related to environmental toxins encountered in the home. A child born in the U.S. today faces a risk of 1 in 600 of developing cancer before the age of 10. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new direction, "moving beyond the chemical-by-chemical approaches of the past, and instead looking at a child's total cumulative risk from all exposures to toxic chemicals."(New York Times, September 29, 1997, page 1.) Children are routinely exposed to low levels of toxins from many different, unrelated sources. A goal of Integrated medicine is the education of the public and of health professionals in the dangers of environmental toxicity and the steps that can be taken to decrease the overall toxic burden of children and adults.