Low-income and minority populations carry a larger burden of disease than their more affluent peers. In Washington, DC, more than 133,000 residents — nearly one-quarter of the population — are classified as low income. Washington, DC residents who are more likely to rate their health as fair or poor are: females; adults aged 65 years or older; African Americans; those who have less than a high school education; and individuals with a household income of less than $15,000.
Integrative Medicine addresses the whole person in health care.
It is well-known that a multidisciplinary approach — using allopathic and naturopathic, eastern and western healing tools — is best for chronic diseases and conditions. However, access to integrative care is unavailable to many, especially low income individuals and families. This unfortunate circumstance is largely due to high out-of-pocket costs and lack of insurance coverage, despite the steady increase in use of integrative medicine modalities.
ACCESS TO CARE
In Washington, DC, there are many places that offer integrative services, but they are often boutique, unaffiliated with larger medical institutions, high-cost, and unable to take insurance (Medicare and Medicaid). This is ironic, given how many holistic tools themselves encourage self-healing and are themselves very cost-effective.
To paint the picture: overall use of acupuncture, an effective tool in management of pain and other conditions, has increased in recent years, but is less common among racial/ethnic minorities. However, community acupuncture (seeing patients in a group setting) is gaining in popularity, and may increase access to healthcare for low-income populations. Unsurprisingly, community acupuncture emerged from conversations about social justice and health care.
HEALTH DISPARITIES AND BRIDGING THE GAP
Health disparities are often seen in very common health conditions, including obesity, smoking, hypertension, and diabetes. Additionally, health disparities are well-documented for the incidence and mortality from some cancers: African Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden for each of the most common types of cancer. There is already high use of integrative medicine among cancer survivors; at least 66% report using some form of integrative medicine. Access to integrative medicine can be critically important for bridging the gap between overcoming illness and regaining health and wellness.
To the point, Reiki can offer cancer patients opportunities to enhance their quality of life, minimize or reduce the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and promote healing and recovery. Additionally, it is common for caregivers to learn Reiki treatments to provide to others. We can share these tools by offering large and small-group trainings to broaden its use.
It is imperative to empower the public with safe and highly impactful self-care tools and to educate healthcare professionals on integrative medicine’s efficacy, use, and adaptability.
The growing use of integrative medicine modalities calls for more rigorous scientific exploration into its effectiveness so that it can be covered by insurance and offered more widely. We also need to provide training opportunities for future medical practitioners who will incorporate it into their daily work as part of their own standard-of-care.