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A New Chapter in Preventive Health Care

Janice Stensrude
published in Uptown Express March 1994

"We're all in the baby boomer generation that's on this hyperquest for health," states Sue Blanchard. "This trend started long before health-care reform became a household word." Blanchard is speaking of the trend towards preventive health care, our nation's only hope to defeat the escalating costs of fighting disease.

In 1992, Blanchard joined with Stephanie Keever, Peggy Scott and Linda Webb to found the Houston Chapter of the Healing Health Care Project (HHCP). Webb, with a doctorate in Public Health, is owner of Life Design, an independent health care consulting firm. Blanchard, Keever and Scott are members of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Health Care System, the organization that has owned and operated Houston's St. Joseph Hospital since 1877.

"Our statement of purpose is about healing ourselves, our relationships and our communities," states Peggy Scott.

The only thing that people need to have in common to be members of this project is that we are all focused on healing health care," adds Stephanie Keever.

The term "healing health care" was coined to discuss a new trend in preventive health care, an integrated approach that goes beyond simple treatment of the physical body. It is a comprehensive term referring to a union of traditional modern medicine and techniques from the alternative and holistic movements that have survived the scrutiny of modern scientific research. Blanchard calls it "a new paradigm of looking at health."

"The driving force for us," states Blanchard, "is that we can be doing more for our patients than we are doing. We feel that there needs to be more integration of mind, body, emotions and spirit to have true healing. That was our discussion, as the founders, in terms of what we need to be doing."

"Health care costs have got to be cut," she adds, "and this is one way to do it. It's a way to cut costs by putting money up front on the preventive end as opposed to the curative end where we fix people when they break down. This is taking care of people to keep them healthy."

The national organization was founded in 1987 by health care futurist Leland Kaiser and fellow health care consultant Bill Adamski. "The purpose was to really get a jump on health care reform and start changing the way health care is delivered and the way we perceive health care," states Scott. Scott describes HHCP as "a national network of individuals and companies, organizations, health care providers, physician group practices, practitioners of health care, and others who are interested in the mission of changing the way health care is delivered."

Members of the Houston chapter form a local network of health care practitioners and institutions with the intent to support one another in extending "healing health care" to the Houston community.

"We have almost every major health care provider in town participating as a member, in addition to lots of practitioners," states Blanchard. "Our goal is to bring in as many diverse groups as possible."

St. Luke's Hospital, which Blanchard describes as a major supporter, has a local chapter within their acute care setting. Working through the Department of Innovative Nursing, the hospital's HHCP chapter is working on ways to integrate healing health care into all hospital departments. M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital and Kelsey Seybold Clinics are among the other Houston health care giants that are active in the organization.

While present membership is professionals and organizations in the health care community, HHCP hopes to attract the interest of people in education and government. "We're interested in bringing all the different multiple disciplines together to come to the design table to help integrate healing into health care," states Scott, "and that includes people from culturally diverse backgrounds, educators, researchers--anybody who can contribute to moving the healing efforts forward."

To date, only one fund-raising effort has been completed, a healing health care conference held last year. Current fund-raising efforts include the planning of another conference, which they hope to include as an annual event, and publication of a directory of healing health care services.

"We started this as what we termed a virtual organization," says Scott, "where people just get together and network and share ideas and learn from each other." While the Houston chapter is not highly structured at this point, the national organization has matured to include a charter, an official publication, and an electronic bulletin board that links people all across the country in an ongoing dialog about health care that heals.

HHCP extends an open invitation to join their ranks. "It's an opportunity to come and be informed, even if you're just a customer of health care," states Scott.

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