The health care reform bill has passed and many people will be celebrating that, finally, the United States will work to assure every citizen health insurance that cannot be canceled because you change your job, because you get sick, or for any other reason.

Those of us who believe in preventive health care, integrated health care, functional medicine, and complementary and alternative medicine have special reasons to celebrate. This bill has provisions that explicitly support these approaches to health care. One of these is the creation of a National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, which I testified about before the Senate last February.

The Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) was created in 2002 and has been quietly working on Capitol Hill to bring about the kinds of changes in health care that we all want. Last month, I was in New York presenting at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium and I was on a panel with IHPC’s executive director, Dr. Janet Kahn. When I heard her describe what IHPC has been doing about health care reform and the things that are lying quietly in this bill, I got very excited about their work and what is to come in 2010.

Dr. Kahn explained 3 major aspects of this bill that IHPC helped shape.

1. Due to Kahn’s work with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the definition of the healthcare workforce was amended so that it now officially includes, “licensed complementary and alternative medicine providers and integrative healthcare practitioners.”

2. IHPC was a collaborator on the creation of the Wellness Initiative for the Nation (WIN), a document that prompted the inclusion of the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council that I mentioned above. Truly remarkable.

3. And third, IHPC worked hard to have the Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research in the bill. This will allow functional medicine approaches to be evaluated toe to toe with conventional medicine.

And there will be more. As Kahn so clearly told the audience in New York, this health care reform bill is just the beginning. It contains toeholds from which we climb toward what we really want – a nation that really understands how to help people live healthy lives and that supports the availability of many different pathways to healing.

I often say that I practice functional medicine because it tackles and fixes the underlying causes of health problems and doesn’t paper over the symptoms as so much of conventional medicine does. That is exactly IHPC’s approach to health care reform. IHPC is about reforming the very architecture of American health care.

Mark Hyman, M.D.

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