A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.
Although being president of the Physicians’ Association for Anthroposophical Medicine (PAAM) can be a challenging task at times (especially saying the name), I appreciate the opportunity it affords me to meet so many good people from around the world. Recently, I have been touched and inspired by a shift I am sensing in the healthcare field. I observe these movements evolving within both the global academic and anthroposophic healthcare communities. I believe these shifts have the potential to transform the concept of healthcare worldwide and bring our anthroposophic medical community, the public, and other health collaborators into a closer partnership. Perhaps it is the coming together of a larger stream of social impulses.
There is an “outer” and “inner” part to this shift. First, the outer trend is brought by many in the academic community to broaden the definition of health in the context of the whole human being. Medical research is clearly connecting the relationship between early childhood nutrition; non-toxic, healthy environments; and supportive meaningful relationships with life-long health of body (even on an epigenetic level), mind, and creative spirit. Further, there is recognition that the practice of “self-regulation” and “self-determination” in adulthood are connected with overall health. (1, 2) Although currently generalized, these principles deeply echo the core foundations of anthroposophical medicine, and increasingly of the foundations of many others in our expanding medical community.
The second part is the trend away from intellectualism and ideologies in the public health sphere. I am hearing health practitioners, educators, farmers, business people asking, “Why and for whom am I doing my work?” There is a growing realization that our actions need to become more inspired by our love for our fellow human beings and less to promote our own ideologies. This gesture leads people to look more keenly at the surrounding world environment and the unique challenges faced by individual people for understanding, inspiration, and creative solutions for problems. It is my own observation that our work becomes truly human when our thinking is shaped this way. It is my observation that increasingly in all professions and walks of life people are striving to bring better health into their communities while asking such questions.
It is a palpable experience and a counter-point to so many other social trends that work against this transforming force of warmth and goodwill for humanity. It is a certainly a question whether there are enough people working in this new way to cross the dark divides that continue to impoverish and deny people the means to be healthy and improve their social situation. We can no longer deny how closely these two things are bound together.
It has been almost one hundred years since Rudolf Steiner and Dr. Ita Wegman laid the seeds for the creation of a new medicine based on the developing human being. This approach was far ahead of its time looking at how the connections between education, human interaction, environment, and nutrition played into the healthy development of the whole human being. We hope that after one hundred years, anthroposophic medicine can now reach out to like-minded colleagues and contribute to the healing of our modern culture.
I would like to extend an invitation to all readers to become part of this shifting and expanding movement toward better public and social health. PAAM, as well as our anthroposophic colleagues across the globe (see: https://www.ivaa.info) are becoming more active in research, collaboration, and health-care policy. Anthroposophic medicine could make very large and meaningful contributions to some of the biggest healthcare challenges facing the world today.
Antimicrobial resistance; oncology and palliative care; and the connection of early childhood to life-long health are major areas where anthroposophic medicine is entering into practical, meaningful, and collaborative relationships with the larger healthcare community and can make a difference. Practitioners around the world have already proven they can make a difference in these areas of health care and more research is needed to validate these experiences. Even some professionals at the World Health Organization have begun to take notice of anthroposophic medicine and are challenging us to demonstrate that we can do more for those in need.
To realize its potential, anthroposophic medicine needs to extend its outreach and grow. We need friends, patients, and all colleagues interested in health to support our training of clinicians and outreach efforts. Public health belongs to all of us, not just to medicine. We hope this new organization is the very beginning of building a larger health-conscious community.
We invite you to join our patient and friends organization (it’s free) and receive our quarterly newsletter of informative articles, videos, links, and updates. Let’s see what we can accomplish together.
It is my hope that two years from now, our newly emerging PAAM patients and friends initiative will help sponsor a public healthcare forum to celebrate 100 years of anthroposophic medicine. I look forward to how our work and outreach can help transform public health through inter-professional and public community building. We would love to have many friends to help shape new goals and create a healthy future for our work and the communities we serve.
Please visit the Patient and Friends page at https://paam.wildapricot.org/Patients-and-Friends and be part our growing community.
Dr. Steven M Johnson DO, is the president of the Physicians’ Association for Anthroposophical Medicine.