Archive for December, 2017

Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Op-Ed

December 11th, 2017

Nick Jacobs, among his other affiliations, is an officer of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium, which represents more than 600,000 IHM practitioners; president of the Clinical and Translational Genome Research Institute, which he founded; and a consultant to the Department of Defense in breast cancer research.

Pennsylvanians received good news recently when the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council reported that hospital readmissions and mortality rates continue falling locally and statewide.

The report shows these rates declining for a number of common types of treatments. It gives much of the credit to a “commitment of PA hospitals to provide quality care” and to the Affordable Care Act, which ties reimbursements to that quality care. This, in turn, encourages health care facilities to strive for improved mortality rates because doing so helps keep government funds flowing through their doors.

Regardless of the motivation, this is good news. But it’s not good enough.The mortality rate could be improved even more dramatically if more healthcare administrators and physicians would introduce integrative health and medicine practices into their services.

Integrative health and medicine (IHM), as defined by the American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health, recognizes the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient. IHM focuses on the whole person, is evidenced-based and employs a wide range of appropriate therapies, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.

Integrative health practice includes treatments and therapies such as acupuncture; natural products; deep breathing; Tai chi and Qi Gong; meditation; massage; special anti-inflammatory diets; progressive relaxation; journaling; biofeedback; pet, music and dance therapies; hypnosis and guided imagery. When provided by a licensed or certified health care professional, IHM provides numerous benefits. It can decrease chronic pain, post-operative pain and the need for medications. It can improve patient satisfaction and shorten hospital stays. It can lower mortality rates. IHM methods also are relatively inexpensive.

Many places, including the Cleveland Clinic, have reported cost savings per patient, while also seeing reductions in patient anxiety, pain, and medications. During my tenure as CEO at Windber (Pa.) Medical Center, I worked with physicians, staff, and volunteers to create a healing environment by embracing all methods and therapies used in integrative medicine and combining them with the ambiance of a fine hotel and the amenities of a health spa. We carefully scrutinized and credentialed practitioners specializing in services such as aroma and massage therapy, integrative nutritional counseling, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, pet and music therapy, reiki and spirituality, to name a few.

In short, a healing environment permeated our facility.

Yes, we had our share of naysayers and opposition among physicians, allied health care professionals and others, but over time our infection rate dropped below 1 percent and stayed there for a decade. (The national average is 9 percent.) Of our peer hospitals, we had the lowest readmission rates, restraint rates and lengths of stay. Even with a palliative care unit to care for dying patients and their families, we had the lowest death rate among our peer hospitals.

For those who would say it was all coincidence because Windber is a small hospital, I would direct them to the 19,000 papers written supporting the efficacy of acupuncture alone, and then to the thousands of papers written about the healing power of music, massage and so many other treatments dismissed all too readily by traditional practitioners.

IHM practices are not at odds with traditional medical practices; rather, they enhance them. Yet in many hospitals and physicians’ offices, they are ignored, discouraged, even ridiculed. Such negative reactions result from ignorance, misinformation, prejudice and even greed — pharmaceutical companies, for instance, see no profit in promoting most IHM treatments, and some medical practices might earn less if, instead of scheduling patients for costly treatments or surgeries, they instead treated patients with acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage therapy or even mindfulness.

Resistance to IHM is breaking down, but this shift in attitude needs to be accelerated. If you travel to Europe or Asia, you will see integrative medicine practices thriving because their value is acknowledged and embraced. In America, IHM beachheads are being established in health care systems and universities, thanks to such groups as the Family Medicine Education Consortium, Integrative Health Policy Consortium and the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, of which I am a co-founder. The academy includes among its member’s hundreds of licensed physicians who have successfully merged IHM with traditional medical practices.

Much remains to be done to more broadly spread the healing benefits of IHM, which will happen only when more patients take more responsibility for their health and demand IHM treatments, more physicians research and adopt them, and more insurance companies pay for them. When that day comes, there will be a lot more good news about mortality rates and other measures of medical care for Pennsylvanians and people all over the country to celebrate.


Advice for a longer life

December 6th, 2017




Back in 1997, I was given a death sentence. OK, it wasn’t one that was exactly spelled out by a judge, but it was provided to me by my ancestors in the form of genetics. You see, I failed a stress test at age 49 and ended up in a cath lab. I’ve been there four more times over the next two decades, but it was primarily because my first set of stents were not medically coated and Mother Nature doesn’t like that.

After this medical crisis slapped me directly in the face, I went to the most progressive physician I knew and asked her what was going on in heart care that was not common knowledge at the time. She told me about a researcher, Dr. Dean Ornish, in San Francisco. I called him, and he invited me to come to a retreat for heart patients in Sausalito, California. Over a five-day period, I learned about yoga, meditation, stress management and group support.

Clearly, my biggest personal challenge was managing stress, and unfortunately, I didn’t get good at that until I left day-to-day healthcare administration in 2009. But the real eye-opener that occurred during this retreat was something called PET Scans. Dr. Ornish introduced us to several heart patients who had been given their own death sentences 20 years earlier, and during their introductions, he showed us their before and after PET Scans. It was at those sessions where I saw that the human body is capable of healing itself. All you have to do is give it a chance and some tender loving care.

Their blockages literally opened up, and in some cases disappeared. Since that retreat back in the nineties, I’ve experienced a similar reversal of a blockage that is lovingly referred to in the healthcare world as a “widow maker.” So, diet, exercise, stress management and group support were the key. It wasn’t cheeseburgers, and one more pack of cigarettes a day that would do the trick.

Turn the clock ahead to October 25, 2017, in San Diego, California, where physician Dr. Daniel Amen presented information from his new book, Memory Rescue, about the human brain. Guess what? Once again, it was demonstrated that epigenetics can supersede genetics. He showed slide after slide of SPECT scans of individual’s brains that had reversed damage caused from head injuries, poor circulation and horrendous American diets. Yes, it was another life-changing event for me as well

Dr. Amen has written about 20 books that address brain health, but I’d highly recommend that you buy this one. He talks about the essentials of brain health that include blood flow, continuous learning, managing inflammation, epigenetics, head trauma, toxins, mental health, infection, diabetes and sleep. I’m sure that’s an overwhelming list for many of you, but let me boil it down in this way. Diet, exercise, stress management, and group support.

If you care enough about yourself, here’s a list: limit fat and fatty foods, walk several minutes a day, stimulate your brain by reading and learning, seek out people who provide you with love and support, and cut back on alcohol, caffeine, and head-butting. Finally, if you work to drop your belly fat and try to stay away from sugars and lots of alcohol, your brain will actually heal itself. Brain damage can be reversed.

Of course, sadly, if things are too far gone as with advanced Alzheimer’s, nothing will do much good, but generally, he has seen the reversal of serious brain function loss when his patients begin to eat healthy fruits and vegetables, drop unnecessary weight, stop eating junk and fried foods, stop zoning on television and actually read, perspire to eliminate toxins by exercising regularly and sleep. Oh, and take fish oil because none of this can hurt you.