Alternative therapies can provide cheaper and more effective results

Adam Katzen
Special to the Daily

When was the last time you went to the doctor? Did you leave feeling like he or she took the time to truly understand what was going on with you?

It’s no secret that the health care system in America is broken. In fact, a doctor visit today includes a paltry average of just less than seven minutes of actual face time with the physician.

The most common result of these visits is prescriptions. That would be great if drugs actually fixed your problem; but they don’t, they simply treat symptoms of the core issue.

Even worse, they often create more symptoms that lead to more drugs. It’s a vicious merry-go-round that’s almost impossible to get off once you’re on.

There are cheaper, less invasive and (often times) more effective ways to deal with many common health problems in our society.

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According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. spends $2.6 trillion on health each year. That’s almost 18 percent of GDP. Most countries spend about 5-8 percent of GDP on health expenditures.

If these trillions of dollars made us the healthiest country on Earth, perhaps it would make sense to spend that kind of money. But we’re not.

In fact, based on data from the World Health Organization compiled in the Bloomberg ratings, we are the 33rd healthiest country in the world — right in between Czech Republic (32) and Bosnia (34).

According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2011, per capita health spending in the U.S. was $8,608. The average per capita health spending among the three healthiest countries in the world (Singapore, Italy and Australia) was $3,887.

Root problems

There are many reasons why we spend so much and are seeing a dismal return on our investment. As I mentioned earlier, one is that we treat symptoms instead of root problems.

Another is that we use expensive tests to diagnose disease and then prescribe even more costly treatments. Even worse, a lot of these tests and treatments aren’t even necessary.

A survey published in 2011 by Dartmouth College and the Congressional Budget Office showed that up to 30 percent of health care expenditures in the U.S. are unnecessary. That adds up to almost a trillion dollars in avoidable X-rays, MRIs, EKGs, prescriptions and visits to specialists.

These tests and treatments are the beaten path most western doctors walk down in diagnosing and treating disease. The statistics associated with them paint a bleak picture. But there is cause for hope.

There are cheaper, less invasive and (often times) more effective ways to deal with many common health problems in our society.

This year, the Vail Symposium’s Living At Your Peak series will focus on integrative medicine and alternative therapies. Some of the foremost experts in the country will join us in Vail to discuss meditation, consciousness, energy work, acupuncture and more.

These aren’t a group of new age quacks either. Just a few of the hospitals, organizations and universities represented at Living At Your Peak are the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, University of Texas, University of Colorado, George Washington University Medical Center, Georgetown University, MIT, The Monroe Institute and Princeton.

Living At Your Peak speakers have authored a total of 28 books, written more than 100 articles and pioneered some of the most cutting edge alternative therapies in history.

Join this Thursday, at the Grandview at 5:30 p.m. for an interesting look at the past, present and future of integrative health care with Dr. Len Wisneski. On Friday, (also at the Grandview at 5 p.m.) a panel of renowned doctors will discuss how you can bridge the gap between traditional and integrative medicine to look and feel your best.

For more information on Vail Symposium programs and to purchase tickets to Living At Your Peak events, visit For organizational questions, to speak with someone about the Living at Your Peak series or to make a donation, you can call 970-476-0954.

Adam Katzen is the program director for the Vail Symposium and has spent several years researching and practicing alternative health therapies. He can be reached at

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