Dear Administration, Congress, Media, and others,
My name is Jerry Gelbart M.D., a Psychiatrist in the San Francisco Bay Area. I practice with medication, psychotherapy, and a “wellness model” that focuses on proactive lifestyle modification by helping people change their thinking, priorities, and behaviors. Additional information and samples of my audio work are available at my website and blog, www.ThePotentMind.com. I have several recommendations to contribute toward clarifying the substance of “Wellness and Illness Prevention” on a National level.
Medical groups such as Kaiser, Cleveland Clinic, and others are rightfully being delegated the responsibility of motivating their members to shift behaviors toward illness prevention. However, outside of medical groups, and perhaps Medicare, there is no other unified national effort to direct and motivate people to change their behaviors.
National Wellness (or “Illness Prevention”) Campaigns can be far more effective. They should include attention to Biological, Psychological, Social, and Spiritual self-care. Instead of telling people what to do (“exercise, eat healthy, do yoga”, etc.) there are specific ways to motivate people and teach them how to change the way they think and the priorities they set. An effective National campaign would provide many incentives to change, address what gets in the way of people prioritizing self-care, and include entertainers, doctors, therapists, clergy, and others. The current HHS website has information on healthy lifestyle (very limited) with nothing at all to address behavior change.
Establish a panel of experts on wellness, illness prevention, and lifestyle change. It might be called WELP for Wellness, Effectiveness, and Lifestyle change Panel, or could be within a “Lifestyle Change” sub-section of HHS. Please see what HHS currently has on-line (what to do) versus the potential of focus on HOW to change behavior, from the perspective of behavior change experts.
The tasks of this panel would be to:
1) Recommend healthy versus unhealthy habits, activities, foods, etc.
Examples: Learning and practicing Mindfulness helps people calm themselves and stay focused on priorities. Establishing a weekly schedule that includes time for family/social and spiritual needs will pay-off with less stress (and the related physical and emotional consequences) as well as increased productivity.
2) Recommend best ways to change behaviors to increase healthy habits and decrease unhealthy.
Examples: De-stigmatize changing, address self-esteem issues that get in the way of changing. Provide education and coaching to motivate and implement lifestyle changes incrementally.
3) Recommend changes to tax structure to incentivize people to increase healthy and decrease unhealthy behaviors. This will make people much more conscious of what they’re doing.
Examples: No taxes or tax rebates for health club costs, classes in mindfulness, yoga, relaxation training. Higher “sin taxes ” (alcohol, cigarettes, etc.) as well as on foods the panel judges as “unhealthy”
4) Develop national campaign with entertainers, doctors, therapists, clergy, others to educate and motivate behavior changes.
Examples: Once panel develops clear message, National media campaign should include entertainers such as actors and musicians. National program should be developed for Middle-schoolers to educate and promote healthy patterns.
Please address any questions or comments to Dr. Gelbart at the above address, or e-mail below.
Jerry H. Gelbart, M.D.