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Daphne White Reports on US Senator Mikulski's Hearing on the Principles of Integrative Health, Feb. 23, 2009

© John Weeks

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Integrator Blog by John Weeks . View all columns in series
Summary: Integrator readers: Here is a treat. Beltway resident, reporter and Healing Touch practitioner Daphne White, CHTP reports for us on the historic February 23, 2009 U.S. Senate hearing on the "principles of integrative health care" chaired by Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Mikulski gets it. White quotes her: “'Wellness is not a silo, prevention is not a silo.'” Then: "Integrative health needs to be at the center of all health care discussions: 'Is that what you are saying?' Mikulski asked. Yes, the panelists answered." White's article guides you to the hearing, and to links to the submitted papers of each of the panelists. Enjoy this report.

Image
Daphne White, CHTP
Monday, February 23, 2009, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) kicked off "integrative health week" in the Nation's capitol. A second U.S. Senate hearing will convene on Thursday. The long-anticipated IOM Summit runs Wednesday-Friday. The Samueli Institute and others are holding a reception on Thursday evening. People, what we have been working toward is finally, literally, getting a hearing.

Thanks to Daphne White, CHTP, you have this first-hand account of the kick-off event. White first appeared in the Integrator with a report on an Obama Healthcare Community Discussion which she hosted. (See
An Integrative Care Submission to the Obama-Daschle Team from the Daphne White Group in the Beltway, January 15, 2009.) The excellent news for all of us is that White has a passion for integrative health politics, lives in the Beltway, and had a desire to exercise her reporter's chops. This is the first of what hopefully will be a series of reports from the hottest season ever for integrative care in the Nation's capitol. All of the testimony and the entire hearing is available by clicking here. I listened to the 2-plus hours today, in the background, cutting back and forth amidst other work. Take a listen. We have some articulate spokespeople. As White points out, it's too bad there weren't more ears to hear, or media to cover it. Thank you, Daphne!
______________________________

Report on Mikulski's US Senate Historic Hearing
on the Principles of Integrative Health 


- Daphne White, CHTP

It’s not every week that the U.S. Senate holds not one but two hearings on integrative health care, while the Institute of Medicine holds a Summit on Integrative Medicine.    But this is no ordinary week.  It began on Monday, Feb. 23, with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) chairing a hearing of the Committee on Health, Education and Labor (HELP).    “We want to examine the principles of integrative health care, and discuss how to best include these principles into the design of what we hope will be a new health care format for the United States of America,” she said. 

   
"What Senator Harkin and I
want to do is not simply to
reform an insurance system,
but transform the delivery
of health care.”

- Sen. Mikulski
 
 
“It is rare and unusual for any Senate committee to take any topic and really delve into it,” she said.  “But Sen. Harkin and I, along with other members of committee, feel so strongly about this because what we want to do is not simply to reform an insurance system, but transform the delivery of health care.”   What Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) has asked the committee to do, Mikulski explained, was to investigate how the quality of health care and the outcomes can be improved, and the role that integrative health care will have in this effort.  This Committee is not interested in simply providing more health insurance for the “same old, same old, same old,” she said.

Image
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
As a Healing Touch practitioner, her words were music to my ears:
  Mikulski has a no-nonsense style, and she means what she says.  But as a reporter who’s covered and observed the ways of Washington for 30 years, I know that many’s the slip between the cup and the lip.  So keep some grains of salt around as you read.

Note also that Mikulski was the only Senator at the hearing, as the Senate had no votes scheduled on Monday and many Senators were in their home districts, or at President Obama’s economic summit.  However, Mikulski noted that all the Democratic Senators had sent staff members to the hearing, and one or two Republican staffers were on hand as well.  It’s not uncommon for only one or two Senators to attend a working hearing such as this, and the lack of Senators meant that Mikulski had the leisure to really engage the panel in a substantive discussion. Sadly, the mainstream media was also absent from this hearing (although they will surely attend Thursday’s mega-star hearing with Mehmet Oz, Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil and Mark Hyman.) 

The panelists at Monday’s hearing included:


  • Cathy Baase, MD, Global Director Health Services, Dow Chemical Company
  • Robert M. Duggan, M.A., M.Ac, President, Tai Sophia Institute
  • James S. Gordon, MD, Founder and Director, Center for Mind-Body Medicine
  • Wayne B. Jonas, MD, President, Samueli Institute
  • Sister Charlotte Rose Kerr, RSM, R.N., B.S.N., M.P.H., M.Ac. (UK), Practitioner and Professor Emeritus, Tai Sophia Institute
  • Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, R.N., Founder and Director, University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing.

   
 
One new idea suggested
or endorsed by all the panelists
was the creation of a new
White House Office
of Health and Wellness.
 
The contents of their testimony will not be news to Integrator readers:  it was the bread and butter of integrative health care policy.  But one new idea suggested or endorsed by all the panelists was the creation of a new White House Office of Health and Wellness.  Charlotte Kerr, who testified first, said this office would operate as part of the White House “health czar” office, and would “guide policy and legislation focused on creating a wellness culture and industry.”  Wayne Jonas followed up with a multi-faceted, seven-step program that would institutionalize the wellness paradigm into every facet of government.

Mikulski honed right in on the White House suggestion with her first question:
  shouldn’t this be part of the Surgeon General’s job?  What about the CDC?  Do we really need “a new White House thing-a-majig?” she asked.  Without missing a beat, Jim Gordon answered:  “There may be a time when we don’t need this office, but right now we do.  The Surgeon General and the CDC have specific purviews, and they don’t control other agencies.”  He added that when he chaired the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, one reason the group’s recommendations were not implemented was because there was no central person or agency in the government who could oversee its far-reaching recommendations.  “We need a constant watchdog, we need more energy behind it,” he concluded.  Robert Duggan added that “the Surgeon General is a surgeon, and the CDC is about disease.  The wellness office should be about wellness.

Mikulski quickly warmed to the idea.  “This is a historical moment,” she said.  “We have a President who says we have to have health care for more Americans that is both affordable and sustainable.”  It would make sense then, she said, that wellness should not be “part of” prevention or “part of” the health care system: integrative health care should be integrated into the system!  Using a military analogy, she added, “Wellness is not a silo, prevention is not a silo.”  Integrative health needs to be at the center of all health care discussions:  “is that what you are saying?” Mikulski asked.  Yes, the panelists answered.

Mikulski was very interested in the efforts of Dow Chemical to offer occupational health programs to their employees, and the cost savings that resulted for the company.  She questioned Catherine Baase at some length about the details of the company’s program, and also engaged in an extended dialogue with Mary Jo Kreitzer about The University of Minnesota’s health coaching program. 

In addition to the six-person panel, the Committee had invited four other experts to participate in the discussion, including pediatrician Kathi Kemper from Wake Forest University.  “The system we have is perfectly designed to achieve the results we are now experiencing,” Kemper said.  “If we want different results, we need to change the system.”  Mikulski seemed to agree whole-heartedly.

Only time will tell whether the ideas presented at this hearing will actually be taken “off the floor” – as Gordon put it – and be placed “on the table.”  The health care wars are just beginning. 

Footnote:  I arrived at the Senate two hours early, as I know from experience that people sometimes line up for hours to get into the relatively small hearing room.  As it turned out, I was the first person to arrive.  The second person was a paid “line waiter” – a person hired by lobbyists to stand in line for them, at a cost of $35 an hour.  Since lobbyists charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their services, it makes economic sense to have someone stand in line for them.  And who was this “waiter” holding a spot for?  The lobbyist for the American College of Surgeons!  Why are surgeons interested in a hearing on integrative health, I wondered?  “We want to see who’s going to be cut,” the lobbyist told me when he finally arrived.  “The way they are cutting the reimbursement payments will affect us.”  I am not making this up:  he used the word “cut” three times in the space of two minutes.  It’s going to be a long health care debate!

You can read all the testimony and view the entire hearing at http://help.senate.gov/Hearings/2009_02_23/2009_02_23.html.

Send your comments to johnweeks@theintegratorblog.com
for inclusion in a future Your Comments Forum.
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About The Author
Resumes are useful in employment decisions. I provide this background so that you may understand what informs the work which you may employ in your own. I have been involved as an organizer-writer in the emerging fields of complementary, alternative and integrative medicine since 1983. Happily, I have learned some things. I was once called an "expert in alternative medicine" by......more
 
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