The new National Prevention Strategy was rolled out today, June 16th, by the Health and Human Services branch of the U.S. Government. The report is titled National Prevention Strategy - America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness.
America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness - Strategic Direction and Priorities
The strategy's seven priorities are designed to improve health and wellness for the entire population of the United States:
- Tobacco Free Living
- Preventing Drug Abuse and Excessive Alcohol Use
- Healthy Eating
- Active living
- Injury and Violence Free Living
- Reproductive and Sexual Health
- Mental and Emotional Well-Being
This new plan has four Strategic Directions:
- Healthy and Safe Community Environments
- Clinical and Community Preventive Services
- Empowered People
- Elimination of Health Disparities
These Priorities and Strategic Directions are to be the foundation for all prevention efforts and will form the basis for a prevention-oriented society. According to the plan, these directions will form a web needed to fully support Americans in leading longer and healthier lives.
America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness - A Christian Faith Perspective
I have browsed through the entire 122-page document and find that this is certainly a major step in the right direction. Health care in our country must have a strong prevention focus and I applaud the leadership of the National Prevention Council for their hard work and diligent efforts. However, I believe this new plan completely misses the mark concerning the faith/religion/spirituality and health piece.
In general, the Research on Religion and Mental Health finds that religious involvement is related to better coping with stress and less depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse. In the last 10+ years the faith and health research has clearly shown that there is a relationship between faith/spirituality and mental health, physical health and wellbeing. This research is clearly showing, with evidence, that there is a strong spirit - mind - body connection and that the health of our body and our physical wellbeing is really a barometer of the health of our deep inner heart, our spirit. My appreciation of this spirit, mind, body connection - the strong link between one's faith, the health of their spirit and their wellbeing - is that it exists because God, our Creator, designed us with this strong connection. He created us to care for our spirit by being in relationship with Him and giving us principles for living and caring for our spirit in the Bible. If we do this our spirit will generally be well. This favors, but does not promise, wholeness, wellbeing and good health.
The Spirituality and Health Connection - Why It Exists is a poster presentation I delivered at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Society for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Duke University. This document makes the case for the faith and health link from a Christian faith perspective.
Even though America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness and the new National Prevention Strategy does not encourage the inclusion of the faith piece, opportunities do exist for professionals and individuals to address and apply these God's principles that are 'prevention' strategies to help people in our nation to live healthier and more fit lives. Health educators and parish nurses can weave these biblical truths and information about the spirituality and health connection into their instruction, thereby increasing learner/patient awareness to improve well being. Likewise, individuals can benefit from knowing how to better care for themselves, especially their spirit, according to God's original design for them. This type of effort would fit well in the Empowered People part of the strategic direction and support the Mental and Emotional Wellbeing priority of the government's new America's Plan for Better Health and Wellness.
"Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they're bursting with health." Proverbs 4:20-22, The Message
What's it going to take for the leadership of our country to be convinced that the strategy for the health care of our citizens must include man's Creator, God, a personal relationship with Him, and address the principles found in the book that He gave us to live by and that this country was founded upon?
I encourage all leaders of organizations who have insight about the faith and health link to do what they can to influence our government's leaders to include a spiritual care or faith piece in the National Prevention Strategy. And I hope the leaders of this new government initiative will recognize that the intentional care of our spirit should be included as part of the new Plan for Health and Wellness.
According to a Christian Post article on religion and faith, a Newsweek poll in 2007 found that 91% of adult Americans believe in God and 82% profess to be Christians. God, our Creator, has provided us instructions in the Bible on how to live and to care for our spirit and our national health care efforts should include a strong spiritual care component in the National Prevention Strategy. (For those not of the Christian faith, I would hope that their sacred texts would similarly provide specific guidelines on caring for the spirit.)
We will never get where we want to be with the health of our nation until this happens.
Read more about the spirituality and health connection from a Christian faith perspective on the Faith and Health Connection ministry website.