Who knew that Easter relates to Springborg’s health portfolio?

Easter is one of the very special dates on the Christian calendar, because Jesus’ healing lifework, culminating in his resurrection from the dead, changed our understanding of both ourselves and the divine. To me, Jesus’ life is evidence of a practical, effective and loving God, and of how we too can experience the divine, here and now.

The very essence of the life he outlined and we know as Christianity is love; love for God, love for ourselves and love for each other. The fact that love heals has major implications today in our community.

In his research topic white paper, Public health and medicine program area, Dr Jeff Levin writes, “Popular writing by physicians and other providers bear witness to a growing belief in love as a salient ally in the clinical setting. The experience of feeling love, for oneself and from others, has been described as a powerful resource for both healing of illness and psychological growth and self-actualization. A loving and empathic relationship between practitioner and patient has been described as a key element in a successful course of medical treatment.”

Seems like the message from Jesus has health implications, as well as religious!

As Lawrence Springborg takes on the health portfolio in the new Queensland government he may not be thinking of the connection between the Easter message and health. Along with the enquiries he’ll be making, he more than likely will be contemplating ‘big picture’ questions, like “how can I ensure Queenslanders are offered the best health care alternatives available?” and “how will I repair the technical systems, improve the processes and mend staff morale in Queensland Health?” A big ask, I agree, and one for which we all need to lend our support, knowing as research tells us that politicians are more likely to do everything in their power to make good on their election promises than not.

Big picture thinking, lateral thinking, and thinking out of the box is required of our leaders, and I’m sure Springborg will step up to the plate. He’ll hear quite a bit about allopathic medicine and its associated systems, but will be sure to realise that it is not the only healing method available or in demand.

In the spirit of a grateful constituent, I’ve been considering what I would say if we came face to face. “Minister, congratulations on your appointment, and ……. (I might start with a couple of humorous references) …

  • Considering your enormous task, you’ll probably be happy to hear about the 2012 DIY health trend;
  • You might be just as excited about results from research into the placebo effect. Could this be evident in the current confidence in the seemingly endless preventative and curative qualities of aspirin?
  • But seriously, do you know much about holistic care, the importance of looking at the whole individual and including their physical, emotional, social and spiritual status? In the Queensland community, there is phenomenal public interest in complementary and alternative medicine, including massage, yoga, acupuncture, herbal medicine – and prayer, with around 70% of Australians using alternative therapies, and with 40% of medical professionals included;
  • Did you know that the World Health Organisation’s 2005 paper states that “health needs to be understood as an inclusive concept …. encompassing spiritual wellbeing?” (The Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion in a Globalized World, Geneva);
  • High on your agenda will be mental health. Did you know that the scientific literature on religion and health outcomes shows a positive correlation between a measure of religiousness/spirituality and health in a wide range of psychiatric and medical conditions? (Handbook of Religion and Health, Koenig, King and Carson, 2012);
  • Did you know that in Australia, there is general acceptance in the medical community of the important role of spirituality in palliative care, as well as its positive effect on mental health? The University of Queensland has developed a course for undergraduate nurses on the subject of Spiritual Care in Palliative Care (developed by researchers Murray, Hutch, Wilson, Mitchell and Meredith);
  • Ageing will be high on your agenda, Lawrence. You may not know that “There are different views of ageing in our society. One view sees ageing as a period of physical decline that includes illness and disability ….. a second view is of ‘successful ageing’”. A research report by Elizabeth B MacKinlay and Corinne Trevitt published in The Medical Journal of Australia proposes a third or alternative view – seeing ageing as a ‘spiritual journey’. They conclude that “although we live in a largely secular society, spiritual care should not be seen as an ‘optional extra’ for older people”;
  • Did you know that our genes are not as unchangeable as we thought? Genes can change – once, or even many times – within a single lifetime! A study conducted at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital found that things like meditation, tai chi, yoga, exercise, and prayer can alter a person’s gene activity, especially as it relates to stress. Considering that more than 60% of visits to doctors are for stress-related complaints, this is pretty significant stuff;
  • You may not have realised that there is a good deal of  public interest in results from research into the effect of spirituality on health, as evidenced in these recent media articles: Does religious faith make people healthier and happier?(28/12/11); Beyond spirituality: the role of meditation in mental health (19/1/12); and Chronically ill benefit from religion (27/10/11);
  • There’s so much good news about spirituality. I’d just love you to know how much our frame of mind impacts our health. Some hospitals and nursing homes are starting to realise the benefits to patients and are now keen to include ground-breaking humour therapy as part of their services.  (Quest News, 13/3/12, New Farm aged care facility in Queensland-first trial of humour therapy);
  • I think that best-selling author Bernie Siegel MD, speaking from years of experience as a physician and who has cared for and counselled innumerable people whose mortality has been threatened by illness, summed up the message that I hope you will take away from these facts, Lawrence, “The simple truth is that happy people generally don’t get sick”.

Seems that spirituality has much to offer the healing arts, and will assuredly bring improvements in health outcomes, as it is already doing in the fields of mental health, ageing and palliative care in Australia. I can certainly vouch for spiritual care, as I have relied on Christian Science for my health care needs for nearly 30 years.

Who knows what public healthcare will look like in the future, but we can be sure that it will take into consideration more fully the mental nature of health and include a recognition of the profound healing benefits of spirituality, Minister!