Winds of Change with Health Care

The following guest blog is written by my friend Steve Graham. Much of his career as an editor has been centered on spiritual reporting. He writes from his home in Natick, MA.

It’s long been said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That old adage holds a lot of modern-day significance when it comes to health care—and health maintenance in particular.

In his book “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health,” Dr. H. Gilbert Welch notes a profound shift that has taken place in the medical world. Whereas for most of history doctors have treated people primarily after they began to manifest symptoms of disease, today it is the norm to be treated and examined in the absence of symptoms.

I have a friend who went to a doctor to get a basic checkup, in order to participate in a dance class. The results indicated a clean bill of health. But then the doctor strongly recommended visits to no fewer than five specialists in that health network, for further testing. My friend was surprised and asked why these were needed, seeing as no health problems were evident. The doctor explained that preventive care is now the normal practice in the U.S.

Still, the wind isn’t entirely filling the sail of an increasingly test-based approach to health care. From his background as a physician and researcher, Welch explores in his book the medical model that promotes constant testing, screening, diagnosing, and prescribing. He says plainly that he is not opposed to the practice of Western medicine or an advocate of alternative medicine. But he maintains that the atmosphere of overdiagnosis in today’s medical community is decidedly harmful, and he’s concerned enough to write a book that goes into great detail about it.

As the country moves down the road toward mandatory health coverage for all Americans, it’s important to acknowledge that prevention isn’t just the province of doctors. A prayer-based approach to caring for one’s health is valid and has earned a seat at the table.

For well over a century, Christian Scientists have been among those who find that the practice of spiritual healing meets their needs for maintaining wellness. Much is said about praying for the sick. But generations of people have come to see that their understanding of God’s power has allowed them to live free from the development of disease and injury as well.

This “health maintenance plan,” if you will, diverges from the medical model. Physicians are increasingly concerned with searching for the myriad possible conditions, often interrelated, that could be troubling the body. On the other hand, this spiritual approach focuses on understanding the single unifying fact that everything in God’s creation must be, like God, eternally good and functional.

No, those who practice spiritual healing haven’t always achieved perfect results, any more than medical doctors have in their own practices. But so many people have proved that it’s more than just chance or good genes that have kept them happy and well.

This prayer-based method of prevention does not involve actively seeking out potential illness, in the conventional sense.  It’s an approach that obviates the need for such medical diagnosing. And because of this, the increasing desire of health care providers to promote testing and examining needs to be taken into account when it comes to insuring those who choose to rely primarily on prayer for their health needs.

Read an interview with Dr. Welch here


  1. Virginia McCullough says

    Thanks for this blog, Steve and Ingrid. I’m so grateful that I found Christian Science and it’s prayer based treatment, which is truly preventive. I’ve never used the medicare money that I’ve paid into and don’t plan to. Christian Scientists (and probably others who take a prayerful, spiritual approach to wellness) will certainly not put a strain on the medicare fund or any other insurance plan. It’s a very subtle sneaky snake that feels like when you have something, like medicare, you should use it. Spiritual prevention is much more fun than needing treatment. Also separating the profit motive from the curing motive is essential. There is lots to pray about here for the well being of everyone.

  2. Nancy Brown says

    Mr. Graham’s thoughtful review of the main premise of Dr. Welch’s book strikes at the root of escalating conversation about and over-zealous watchfulness for the slightest indication of symptoms predicted by such “overdiagnoses.” A pharmacy in my neighborhood has posted a banner sized sign highly visible by passersby about the immediate availability of shots to prevent thus-and-such disease. I overheard a conversation among friends who were discussing whether or not each had “gotten their shot” yet. It reminded me of a statement from a book written over 150 years ago by the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. She wrote: “The press unwittingly sends forth many sorrows and diseases among the human family. It does this by giving names to diseases and by printing long desriptions which mirror images of disease distincly in thought. A new name for an ailment affects people like a Parisian name for a novel garment. Every one hastens to get it” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”, pp. 196-197).
    I love the picture of the sailboat that, instead of staying close to shore and checking in at various ports along the way, strikes out to sea with its sails filled with the healthful winds of spiritual understanding–the prayer-based understanding of God’s goodness and power–the most dependable and universally available health care plan.