(BPT) – In the late 90s, Minneapolis resident Penny George was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy, she thought her physicians were focused solely on the disease and the interventions being used – not on her as the person who was experiencing the disease and also seeking to overcome it. Her treatment felt incomplete. In search of a whole person approach to care, George added different integrative medicine practices to her care regimen. Through this healing process, she realized little attention was given to preventing disease or to survivorship, and she wanted to do something to change the way medicine was being practiced.
Most common chronic diseases – obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and some types of cancer and asthma – are linked to behavioral and/or environmental risk factors and can be mitigated or avoided through preventive and wellness practices.
‘As I navigated my own path toward wellness, I became convinced that what I had learned – both the knowledge and the tools for self-care – should be available to everyone,” George explains. “I also believed that philanthropy could help bring about the changes that needed to happen in medicine.”
In her quest to make a difference in health care, George convened a select group of philanthropists and health care professionals who recognized the problem and wanted to ‘make health care more responsive to the complete needs and well-being of the patient.’ Forming The Bravewell Collaborative in 2002, these 20-plus philanthropists managed a collective trust of funds, and took an active role in bringing integrative medicine to the forefront of health care.
Bravewell chose to sunset in 2015, but its accomplishments and legacy projects continue to help transform health care. Some of these efforts include:
Coordinate research on the effectiveness of integrative medicine interventions. Patients Receiving Integrative Medicine Interventions Effectiveness Registry (PRIMIER), is the first nationwide database focused on integrative medicine. Developed and managed by BraveNet, a practice-based research network comprised of 14 integrative medicine centers based at some of the nation’s leading hospitals and medical centers, the registry has enrolled more than 2,000 patients to date so researchers can evaluate patient-reported outcomes over time. The registry evaluates areas such as quality of life, pain, mood, and stress for patients who supplement conventional medical care with therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic, biofeedback, nutrition, massage, and mindfulness. PRIMIER is managed by Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.
Build a network of leaders with the knowledge and skills to expand an integrative health culture across health care and beyond. The Leadership Program in Integrative Healthcare at Duke University is a year-long program that cultivates integrative health care leaders to inspire change in the future of health care.
Expand the footprint of integrative health and medicine at academic medical centers through the country. The Academic Consortium for Integrative Health & Medicine went from a group of eight medical schools to 56 schools and health systems that have each developed clinical centers to deliver integrative care. Beyond fostering a physical footprint of integrative health care throughout the country, the Consortium established strong communities of practice that have furthered the advancement and adoption of integrative medicine by developing models of care, facilitating the incorporation of integrative medicine into all levels of medical education, supporting high-quality research, and influencing local, state, and national health policy.
“Bravewell was born with an unusual goal: to not exist,” says Christy Mack, philanthropist and former President of the Bravewell Collaborative. “We created a timeline for our work, which kept us focused on one thing – achieving what we set out to do. We worked together to change how Americans think about their health and the kind of health care they receive, and to bring about the cultural change necessary to create a healthier nation.”
A new book, The Bravewell Story: How a Small Community of Philanthropists Made a Big Difference in Healthcare, traces the 14-year history of this organization and how it addressed important issues in health care. In the book, Bonnie Horrigan, author and former executive director of The Bravewell Collaborative, details the critical principles that guided the organization’s vision, mission and decision-making, which other organizations could incorporate into their own initiatives and projects.
* Glennon Doyle Melton is the author of the New York Times Bestseller, CARRY ON, WARRIOR, founder of http://www.momastery.com, and creator of http://www.monkeeseemonkeedo.org. Glennon believes that life is equal parts beautiful and brutal, and writes about the “brutiful” she finds in marriage, motherhood, faith, addiction and recovery. Glennon unleashes her wit, courage and irreverence to call us to accept ourselves exactly as we are today, but also incidentally inspires us to live bolder, more meaningful lives for others. Glennon is a speaker and regular contributor to Huffington Post and other publications. CARRY ON, WARRIOR and Glennon’s philanthropic work have been featured on The TODAY Show, The Talk, Ladies’ Home Journal, Parents Magazine, and American Baby, among other television and print outlets. She lives in Naples, Florida with her family.
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