Natural Foods Merchandiser

Healing a sick economy

President Obama has taken a lot of criticism for launching a pricey health care reform plan on top of his pricey economic recovery plans. Even Obamaniacs like me are questioning the president’s desire to fix health care right now. Can’t it wait until the Dow is a little less dour?

Natural Products Expo West gave me a new perspective on that question. After listening to Dr. Andrew Weil’s presentation on “The Role of Food and Supplements in Healthcare of the Future,” chatting with people from alternative medicine education programs and checking out the healthy (in more ways than one) supplements displays on the show floor, I realized that health care, just like clean energy and green living, is a vital economic driver.

A sick health care system equals a sick economy, I heard over and over again. Weil, who recently testified before the U.S. Senate about health care reform, put it best: “The health care crisis has the potential to sink the whole economy.” Greedy pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers are certainly contributing to out-of-control health care spending, he said, but so are doctors and patients who want to cure everything that ails them with a pill, rather than inexpensive prevention techniques like diet, exercise and supplements.

Taking on big pharma and indoctrinated doctors will be extremely difficult, Weil warned. But already, consumers are rethinking their health care choices, and eventually that may result in a popular outcry for health care reform that can’t be ignored. New statistics show that not only are consumers turning more to supplements to stave off expensive doctors’ visits, they’re also taking more responsibility for their own health by learning about nutrition and exercise.

Just ask Carol Robinson, director of Trinity College of Natural Health in Warsaw, Ind. The college offers more than 250 natural health seminars nationwide each year, and already this year “we’ve had to close some class enrollment because they’re already filled,” Robinson told me during her booth duty at Expo West. “Last week, it happened two or three times.”

Each seminar can hold 30 to 60 people. Multiply that by the hundreds of seminars offered, and that equals thousands of Americans willing to shell out $200 to $250 a class to learn natural healing techniques.

“People come to the seminars for all kinds of reasons--they’ve experienced a serious health issue or they’re concerned about their children’s nutrition and vaccinations--but mainly enrollment is up because they can’t afford health insurance,” Robinson said. “Throughout the years, we’ve noticed that this is a field that always gets better when there are economic problems.”

That’s not only good news for all people in the natural health industry, but for our new president as well. As the 68-year-old Weil put it, for the first time in his lifetime, he can actually envision a U.S. health care system that relies on prevention rather than intervention, that embraces alternative healing techniques as readily as Western medical practices.

Imagine: One nation under God, with supplements and good nutrition for all.

Vicky Uhland
Contributing writer
Natural Foods Merchandiser

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