Friday, December 16, 2011

Medicare information -- plus movies

UnitedHealthcare and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture are collaborating to offer free information sessions aimed at helping African American beneficiaries of Medicare better understand their insurance options.

Three sessions are planned through February, featuring speakers from UnitedHealthcare and the Gantt center. The next is Saturday, Dec. 17, from 6 to 10 p.m., at McCrorey YMCA, 3801 Beatties Ford Road. An hourlong “Health Moment” will explain how Medicare works. That will be followed by a holiday dinner and dancing.

Other sessions are scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Gantt center, 551 S. Tryon St. Informational programs will be followed by the showing of classic movies featuring black actors.

Details: Bonita Buford, 704-737-2657.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is the placebo effect effective?

In my early 20s, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. But Western medical doctors had little to offer in the way of treatment, so I just lived with periodic bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Then, in the early 1990s, when I was researching a newspaper article on alternative medicine, I interviewed naturopaths and homeopaths who seemed to really care about and emphasize the importance of digestive health.

I began taking homeopathic remedies to restore balance to my "constitution." It was a slow process, but today I'm nearly symptom free.

When I mentioned this to a doctor friend one day, he suggested the treatment hadn't really worked and that my response was the result of a "placebo effect."

"So what?" I asked. If I felt better, it didn't really matter, did it?

Maybe there was some therapeutic benefit to having a practitioner who actually listened to me, spent time with me and believed that I could get well. And maybe medical doctors could learn from that.

Science journalist Michael Specter explores the placebo effect in a Dec. 12 article in The New Yorker. It focuses on the work of acupuncturist Ted Kaptchuk, who directs the new The Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at Harvard Medical School.

You have to be a subscriber to read the magazine article online:
But you could find the print copy at the library or read more by doing a Google search for the institute and its director.