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Studies say spirituality accelerates medical healing

BOSTON (BP)–Studies of the effects of prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices on healing have gained growing attention among doctors and nurses in recent years. Now they are capturing the consideration of health maintenance organization executives as well.
A survey of 300 HMO professionals released Dec. 15 in Boston found 94 percent believe spiritual practices can aid medical treatment and accelerate the healing process.
The study, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and conducted by Yankelovich Partners, also found 74 percent of the HMO professionals believe the positive effects of spirituality can reduce health-care costs. However, 89 percent said the rules and policies of their health-care plans or institutions do not currently take research findings on the subject into account.
John M. Templeton Jr., a pediatric surgeon and president of the foundation, anticipated “in the years ahead, we can expect more plans to include complementary medical approaches that will help patients unlock the healing powers of their spiritual beliefs.”
Such steps in integrating spiritual and medical components of healing are endorsed by Ben Mitchell, assistant professor of ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and biomedical and life issues consultant to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“I think that’s part of ministry to the whole person,” Mitchell told Baptist Press. “Modern clinical medicine has adopted what I would call body-plumber approach. But if we’re going to return to whole-person medicine, then the variety of ways in which the whole person relates to the illness has to be considered.”
Mitchell noted “there are some incredible clinical findings that demonstrate that spirituality has a tremendous impact on well-being.” For example, he said, some have found that people who attend church three times a week and smoke have better health than people who attend church only on holidays and don’t smoke.
The HMO survey results were released in connection with a three-day course titled, “Spirituality and Healing in Medicine,” presented by the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education and the Mind Body Medical Institute. The course sponsors reported that more than 200 clinical studies provide direct and indirect evidence of the power of faith, spirituality and meditation in improving health and the healing process.
“I think that the HMO policies, with caution and careful analysis, should take those therapies into account,” Mitchell said.

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  • Darrell Turner