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Special Reports on  " Biology"

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Special Report

Is Religion Good for Your Health?

Some doctors believe that medicine should be interested in whatever helps people heal. This makes recent clinical research suggestings religious commitment brings health benefits doubly challenging.
Illustration by Marcia Klioze Hughes/The World & I 

"The skill of the physician lifteth up his head, So that he standeth in the presence of princes. God has created medicines out of the ...

Religion: The Forgotten Factor in Health Care
This past year has been dominated by discussions and debates about how best to undertake health-care reform. In the past few decades, health-care costs in this country have skyrocketed. In 1940, health care absorbed $4 billion, which constituted a mere 4 percent of the GNP. By the early 1990s, however, health-care costs had ballooned to more than $800 billion, or approximately 13.4 percent of the GNP. Experts predict that these costs will continue to climb and by the year 2000 will total over $1 trillion--more than 15 percent of the GNP. ...

Measuring 'The Forgotten Factor'
The inexorable escalation of health-care costs is increasingly exercising the attention and concern of governments worldwide. Health-care systems that have performed effectively in the past are typically showing signs of severe strain under rising costs. This problem is universal, and not special to the United States, and it is one for which any major relief would be of profound international significance. ...

Neglecting 'The Forgotten Factor'
You would think that approaches to healing, care, or cure that demonstrate success would be embraced by physicians, researchers, and care-givers. Certainly this would be the case if there were few risks of side effects, and quite likely it would also be the case if such approaches cost little. ...

The Future of 'The Forgotten Factor'
In a time of cost containment in American health care, clinical programs in pastoral care are a likely first target. In fact, anecdotal reports abound indicating that hospital chaplains are fighting to survive against tough odds. Hospital administrators ask what proof there is that pastoral care does any real good. Clergy are thus put on the defensive because the empirical studies of benefits are few and methodologically limited. As a general rule, studies by pastoral-care organizations have been unsophisticated, and qualified medical researchers have had "better" things to study. The few national centers for the study of religion and health seem more interested in theological reflection than in social scientific analysis. ...

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