Helene Langevin, M.D.
What’s your New Year’s resolution?
A new year often brings new hopes and desires to improve health. The “health” industry kicks into high gear to capitalize on all those New Year’s resolutions.
Their marketing is designed to appeal to those who are hungry for a deeper sense of health and well-being. But resolutions that focus on quick fixes or one-dimensional strategies are often driven by hype, not evidence. Even when the approach may be appropriate—like advice on how to improve your diet—it’s often delivered in isolation, without recognition of how one aspect of health impacts others.
I saw this phenomenon when I practiced medicine, managing many patients with pain. A patient might come to me looking for help for back pain. But back pain can be exacerbated by being overweight and sedentary, which can be exacerbated by depression and anxiety, which can be exacerbated by limited access to mental health care and coaching on stress management approaches. Because much of our health care system is still geared to address these issues via different health professionals, in different settings, at different appointments, it’s no surprise that patients often seek easier answers.
To achieve those New Year’s health goals, I see two essential ingredients to success—ingredients that underpin the work of NCCIH.
The first ingredient is clear, accessible information on evidence-based approaches to health. NCCIH’s resources reflect rigorous research and help consumers make informed decisions. To help differentiate between fact and marketing hype, visit the Health Information section of our website. Our research on mind and body approaches can help those looking for strategies that can set the stage for sustained health and well-being, by better managing issues like diet, sleep, and stress. Know the Science is an important resource designed to explain scientific topics related to health research so that consumers can better understand health news and publications.
The second essential ingredient is a shift in mindset—from seeking separate, disconnected solutions to treat various ailments to recognizing that many health problems may be connected. While our general approach to health care tends to zoom in on specific diseases or even individual body parts, research continues to tell us that assessing the big picture can be important to setting the stage for sustained whole person health and well-being.
For those who are feeling new resolve for better health in 2020, I hope NCCIH’s health information resources will help you with your decisionmaking. We’ve made our popular Herbs at a Glance resource available in a mobile app to ensure information about the effects and safety of a product is available when and where you need it. As we continue to drive research to better understand the interrelationship of factors that make up our health, I hope you’ll stay up-to-date with new findings and future directions with our research blog.
Happy New Year to all.