Blueprint for a Healthier America 2016 – How Does Yoga Fit into this Design?

So this just came out from the Trust for America’s Health – Blueprint for a Healthier America 2016: Policy Priorities for the Next Administration and Congress

My first response is: hello policy wonks, can you please start taking yoga seriously? Because basically, it offers a lot of what you are calling for.

In the intro, the reports says: “The United States faces a series of major health crises. Unfortunately, however, for decades, the health system has been set up to treat people after they are sick rather than keeping them well in the first place.”


What is desperately needed is the widespread promotion, implementation, and adoption of lifestyle therapies which can prevent disease and encourage wellness. Here’s a rundown of the article’s “Guiding Principles for Improving Health” (btw, most of the graphics are from the study):

  1. Prioritize Health Care vs. Sick Care

The first priority speaks to my point. The focus needs to shift to all aspects of prevention – reaching people before they get sick and better managing care in the early stages before the disease progresses. Obviously it’s significantly less expensive to prevent illness than it is to keep chronically ill people alive. 

  1. Better Meet Local Priorities

Let communities self-determine their priorities because different communities have different needs. When I think about the integration of lifestyle medicine and yoga, how can communities better dictate how lifestyle interventions and practices are adapted and delivered to best meet its needs? Rather than rely only on the often mismatched studio/gym model.

  1. Support for Health and Well-being Beyond the Doctors Office

Here the authors encourage using collective impact strategies which, basically are an integrated, structured way of achieving large scale social change by bringing a lot of different organizations together with a common goal. This kind of thinking is essentially a call for what I mentioned in my recent Carolinas Integrative Health Summit plenary presentation – everyone involved in health care needs to be addressing social, racial, and economic justice issues.

Additionally Integrated care (more about yoga and integrated care here) needs to be bolstered in communities so that mental health is prioritized. The authors also argue that we must rigorously address the issue of adverse childhood experiences and their impact on the health of individuals and communities.

  1. A Modern Public Health System that is Prepared for Emergencies and Ongoing Priorities

In addition to the obvious need to prevent and contain outbreaks and epidemics, this point mentions the need to address ongoing concerns like obesity and diabetes. These diseases are now so wide-spread that they’re labeled “epidemics.” Chronic disease care sucks up 87 percent of the health care budget. Sounds like an epidemic to me.

Asheville used to have a strong public health program but it has dwindled significantly as the state has turned purple and then red (thanks to Raleigh gerrymandering). I’ve listened to (especially mental) health care providers at the local and state level complain about shrinking budgets for years. Ironically, as mental health crises and the opioid epidemics have increased, mental health spending has decreased in our state.

  1. Support Better Health in Every Community

This point speaks to the social determinants of health and the reality that where you live affects what kind of resources you have to stay healthy.

As much as I find these kinds of reports inspiring and forward thinking, I found nothing in the document that promoted the use of Integrative or Lifestyle medicine. With more than 10 percent of the population reporting that they practice yoga and the rise of the neuroscientific evidence around the efficacy of yoga, meditation and mindfulness, I think the policy wonks still have a way to go before they will achieve their desired results. The time for collaboration has arrived.




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