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Holistic Health Care: A vision for the future

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OPEN LETTER TO: M.

OPEN LETTER TO:
Mr. Roy Romanow, Commissioner
The Future of Health Care in Canada
Box 160
Saskatoon, SASK
S7K 3K4

When is the health-care system going to recognize natural therapists and others who play a crucial role in keeping Canadians healthy?

Eighty-four-year-old Betty Johnston is a natural health therapist who has been practising from her farm at Milestone, Saskatchewan for 56 years. Her daughter, Elizabeth Johnston, also practises out of the same farm. Two of her granddaughters, Shellan Kinvig in Calgary and Callie Pickering in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, are also doing similar work.

Betty Johnston has patients all over western Canada and as far south as California. In her own community, she's referred to as a faith healer--meaning that the neighbours have great faith in her ability to help with a variety of health problems.

Her business card asks, "Do you believe in wellness? We do." It goes on to say, "Over 50 years of experience helps us successfully solve your health problems."

She says, "As natural therapists, our backgrounds cover many fields including biochemistry, homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, herbalism, reflexology, massage therapy, deep tissue work, nutrition and lymphatic drainage."

The national register Who's Who acknowledges people in North America for their individual achievements in their specific profession. Betty Johnston's work was recognized in their 2001-2002 edition.

It is unfortunate that her achievements and those of others who help us understand the importance of good nutrition receive little recognition by the health-care system.

It appears that the Medicare Act only fully endorses members of the colleges of physicians and surgeons. Unfortunately, very few medical doctors have much training in nutrition--during a time when nutrition is more important than ever.

I grew up during the 1930s when we ate mainly wholesome, unpreserved foods. Today, the nutritional value of food is destroyed by both processing and preserving, and to some extent, by growing. Some farmers, myself included, believe that the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides can inhibit the uptake of nutrients from the soil to the plant and thus reduce the nutrients getting to the consumer's table. More scientific research needs to be conducted in this area.

Regardless, the fact that health food stores have flourished in the last 30 years is evidence to me that people are turning away from nutrient-deprived foods that have been developed through modern agriculture and processing technology, in favour of healthier whole foods.

Citizens are also turning to non-funded health-care providers for help with their medical problems--and they're getting results. Betty Johnston and her daughter and granddaughters are excellent examples of successful natural therapists who continue to supplement the health-care system on a "fee for service" basis.

Certified organic farmers are another unrecognized group working hard to produce nutritious, healthy, unpolluted food and to help clean up the environment. They, too, get very little recognition from either federal or provincial governments. In fact, governments spend large amounts of taxpayers' money on the promotion of chemical agriculture and, more recently, on genetic engineering. Governments have ignored organic farmers to the extent that many Saskatchewan certification organizations have had to apply for organic certification registration with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Call me idealistic, but I have a different vision for the national medicare system, one that's logical and result-oriented. I believe certified organic farmers, soil specialists, agricultural biologists, natural therapy practitioners, naturopaths, chiropractors and medical doctors should be recognized as participants in a team to provide the best standards of health care in Canada.

The team leaders should be the federal and provincial ministers of health. The agriculture and environment ministers should be directly responsible to the minister of health in order to develop a common objective of producing nutritious food, pure air and water and a clean environment. These are, after all, the true foundations of good health.

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