Written by Dr. Sean Heerey.*  This is the first article of a six-article series on the efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and safety of naturopathic medicine when it comes to health promotion and disease prevention based on research from across the country.

Naturopathic medicine is a medical system defined by its philosophy of treating the “cause of disease” and not just alleviating symptoms. It includes health promotion, disease prevention and health care education for patient empowerment. Some of the tools Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) utilize include lab testing (especially looking for unhealthy trends to intervene early), dietary modifications, nutrients, herbal therapies, supplements and lifestyle changes to support patients with health.

U.S. Senate Resolution 221 of the 113th Congress states that “naturopathic doctors are skilled in preventing and treating chronic disease; that naturopathic medicine is a safe, effective, and affordable means of health care; and that licensure of naturopathic doctors helps address the shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, while also providing people with more choice in health care.”

Part I

The Problem:  Chronic Disease

Chronic Disease is overwhelming the medical system and our economy.

According to the Center for Disease Control

  • Chronic diseases cause 7 in 10 deaths each year in the United States.
  • More than 75% of health care costs are due to chronic preventable conditions.
  • About 133 million Americans—nearly 1 in 2 adults—live with at least one chronic illness.
  • Approximately one-fourth of persons living with a chronic illness experience significant limitations in daily activities.

SOURCE:  CDC website. Chronic Disease Prevention: The Burden of Chronic Diseases and Their Risk Factors, 2009.

RTI International, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in 2009 found:

  • Obesity costs the US $147 billion annually.
  • Annual medical expenditures attributable to obesity have doubled in less than a decade.
  • 58 Million Overweight; 40 Million Obese in the US
  • Eight out of 10 over 25 year olds are Overweight
  • 76% increase in Type II diabetes in adults 30-40 since 1990 and 80% Obesity Related Diseases
  • 70% of Cardiovascular disease related to obesity
  • 42% breast and colon cancer diagnosed among obese individuals
  • 30% of gall bladder surgery related to obesity
  • 26% of high blood pressure

According to the New York State Department of Health:

  • “Chronic diseases affect the lives of six million New Yorkers, and account for 73% of deaths in New York State annually.”
  • “Of the 157,000 deaths in New York State in 2002, 114,000 were attributable to the top five chronic diseases. The proportion of deaths due to chronic disease in New York is somewhat higher than that of the United States, primarily because of higher deaths from diseases of the heart.”
  • “Although common and costly, many chronic diseases are also preventable. Many chronic diseases are linked to lifestyle choices that are within your own hands to change. Eating nutritious foods, becoming more physically active and avoiding tobacco can help keep you from developing many of these diseases and conditions.
  • Based on a study of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, 6.6% of all adults (approximately 950,000) in New York State are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes. An estimated additional 450,000 adults have diabetes but remain undiagnosed. This represents a 50% increase since 1993”

Next Week:  Part II — Evidence Based Chronic Disease Prevention

*Please note:  Dr. Maura Henninger and Dr. Rick Brinkman also contributed to this article.

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