The 19th and early 20th centuries were a hot-bed for natural therapies and a more holistic approach to health.
Colleges of naturopathy, homeopathy and chiropractic flourished. Sanitariums, such as the one at Battle Creek, Michigan, founded by natural health pioneer John Harvey Kellogg, helped people to regain or maintain good health through diet, exercise and other lifestyle measures. Healthcare in America took a radical turn around 1910, however, when the Flexner Report determined that German allopathic medicine was superior to naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbalism. “Out” was the whole-person, systems-based approach of natural medicine; “in” was the symptom-based, drug-based approach. Most important was the economic consideration—the ability to patent chemically based drugs and mass produce them at huge profits. With our dependence on the quick-fix, magic-bullet approach, the importance of lifestyle in maintaining good health continued to erode.
For the last one hundred years in America, we have been engaged in a medical culture war between two seemingly opposing forces. The first is the “Culture of Illness,” represented by the modern medical-pharmaceutical-research complex, which is focused on disease management largely through synthetic, patentable drugs. The second, the “Culture of Wellness,” focuses on the whole person and lifestyle; on self-responsibility and teaching; and on motivating people to higher levels of vitality, health and well-being; and is dedicated to teaching people to be well rather than to be treated as patients.
Since 1970, we find ourselves coming full circle. Wellness, as a contemporary worldwide trend, urges us to take responsibility for our wellness and focus on holistic health. It penetrates the collective cultural psyche, the media and our institutions. Everywhere you look you see wellness centers rapidly springing up in hospitals, clinics and fitness centers; medical spas and wellness spas are on the rise; wellness coaching is a hot new field; and wellness and mind-body-spirit well-being is omnipresent in women’s magazines. It is universally accepted that there is an increasingly urgent need for us to take a greater level of responsibility for our wellness if we are ever to get health care costs