We're just into the beginning of 2012, the time when experts are busy making predictions for headlines for the new year.
One of the areas of these predictions that is often neglected -- despite its growing interest by public and professionals alike -- is that of alternative and complementary heath. These trends surely will affect businesses, both large and small, as well as the way that health care is sought and delivered in our communities. Here is my list of eight health trends for 2012:
Interest in alternative treatments will experience a second surge. As more mainstream medications, from Aleve to Prozac to Vioxx, are showing seriously dangerous side effects, we'll be looking for new solutions to minimize health conditions. Even though interest in alternative treatments is already high, more people, practitioners and patients will be willing to experiment with new remedies, activities and lifestyle changes to avoid these kinds of medications. Yoga, tai chi, qigong, Feldenkrais, guided imagery, acupuncture and other practices will continue to gain attention due to their ability to calm, soothe and attend to medical situations such as chronic pain, hypertension, obesity and stress.
Along with the growth of interest in alternative medicine, there will be a growth in the interest of alternative psychotherapy. "Alternatives" don't just come down to herbs, massage and yoga, as valuable as they are. People can experience significant growth and change -- often in short amounts of time -- with activities that use drama, guided imagery, music therapy, art therapy, sand tray therapy, energy balancing, sound healing and other modalities that speak to people's whole selves, not just symptoms. These are no longer strange "hippie" ideas but increasingly sought-after modalities that people are willing to travel distances and pay for out of pocket.
In our buy-buy culture and go-go lives, we'll step up the need for personal satisfaction rather than external achievement. This may well mean a "diet" on activities, trimming our schedule of overextended lifestyles and creating routines and opportunities to calm our overstressed bodies and minds. Products and services, including personal coaching and personal growth and spiritual growth classes, will help us focus on what is really satisfying and comforting.
The food-health connection will be very important. As we learn more about "clean eating" -- consuming foods without preservatives, chemicals, sugars and other additives -- our habits will change as we read labels even more carefully and appreciate the rewards of more energy and fewer chronic illnesses. Along with clean eating, we will also become aware of the problems associated with crops that have been over-hybridized by corporations for fast growth and easy harvest. One of these over-hybridized crops is wheat, which is contributing to gastric problems, weight gain and other allergic reactions. See this link for more information.
As insurance costs bump up, a greater push to keep students and employees healthy. This will mean a closer examination of cafeteria food in schools and on-site vending machines in work places, including information on how eating patterns create stress, obesity and health and behavior problems. And now that "Supersize Me" has become a classic documentary about the failings of fast food, food processing companies and vendors will upgrade their searches to develop and market products that are not only healthy but actually promote health.
Special interest treatments will be developed for special interest groups. Studies are showing that various groups, whether ethnic or otherwise, are at higher risk for certain health concerns. Just one for-instance: a research study is showing showing high rates of smoking in the LGBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community. In some parts of the country, LGBT smoking rates can be as much as 50 percent higher than their heterosexual counterparts, making nicotine an emerging public health priority for LGBT individuals.
Smoking treatment programs will become more varied and incorporate alternative methods of treatment, care and support. These alternative methods may include acupuncture, non-traditional psychotherapy, online support groups, herbal therapy, dietary changes or a combination of unique interventions designed to fit the individual's needs. The fact is that smoking kills more people each year than HIV/AIDS, car accidents and drug and alcohol use combined.
We'll want to have a greater understanding of trauma and how it affects the layers of our lives. Sept. 11 has certainly awakened many more people about the reality of psychological trauma and its effects. Now we are dealing with the hyper-stress on the returning military from Iraq, as well as families and civilians, and the aftermath of earthquakes and hurricanes. There will be a greater interest in how trauma affects us both personally and in our institutions, including our workplaces and schools -- where violence and bullying are rising -- and how to respond in effective ways.