January – Health & Wellness
Healthcare and the Jewish People
The Jewish tradition has always placed high regard and attention to the health and wellness of an individual on all physical, mental, and spiritual levels. The Jewish value of sh’mirat haguf (protecting our bodies as they are a gift from God) demonstrates the need to protect and maintain a healthy body and mind. Jewish people have a long history of establishing health care systems both in and out of an insular Jewish community. In fact, Jewish scholar Maimonides would list health care on a list of ten communal services that a city should offer its residents. Additionally, Jewish people were required to live in a community that had a doctor, public baths, and fruit, which assured access to health care, proper hygiene, and healthy food, respectively.
Another Jewish value, B’tzelem Elohim, meaning that all people are created in the image of God, also asserts the idea that we have an obligation to maintain a healthy body and mind for ourselves and for the community. When it comes to health care in community, Jewish people have always placed importance in the phrase pikuah nefesh, which embodies the obligation to save lives. This, partnered with tzedakah (charitable giving), can focus on the importance of providing food, shelter, clothing, and medical care to those in need and to use community resources to ensure this social safety net (Epstein, 2011).
Healthcare in America
According to healthyamericans.org, the United States’ public healthcare system is responsible for improving the health of all citizens but has been chronically underfunded for decades. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from many preventable diseases, and the United States continuously ranks poorly when it comes to health and health care concerns. In a 2016 study, it was found that adults in the United States are sicker and more economically disadvantaged compared to citizens of eleven other economically-similar countries. This study, calculated by The Commonwealth Fund (a health care nonprofit), went on to find that the main challenge to America’s health care system is “compounded by higher health care costs, greater income disparities, and relatively low levels of spending on social services.”
Health and Social Justice
World Health Organization states that “the social conditions in which people are born, live and work are the single most important determinants of good health or ill health, of a long and productive life, or a short and miserable one.” Therefore, it’s important to place health equity as an important ideal to strive for in a society. Unfortunately, not all people are able to achieve stable, accessible, and fair healthcare or health services. This healthcare gap and inequality within the United States is the direct result of unjust public policies and practices that help further establish the unfit distribution of money, resources, and power among marginalized groups, women, and other minorities.
- The Healthcare Policy Podcast
- Stay up-to-date on public policy regarding healthcare from industry experts.
- Health Care News Podcast
- Established by the Heartland Institute, this podcast helps bring you vital information, quickly and conveniently, to healthcare consumers.
- TEDTalks Health
- Offers compelling and inspiring presentations about new and interesting topics involving healthcare and the medical field.
- Health Care in the U.S.
- The Khan Academy offers a 10-part series on an introduction to the United States’ Healthcare System.
- Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (2010)
- “Morbidly obese and stricken with an autoimmune disease, a man endeavors to drink only fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days in an effort to lose weight and reclaim his health.”
- Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare (2012)
- “Filmmakers Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman use personal stories and expert analysis to diagnose serious problems in the U.S. healthcare system.”
- Sicko (2007)
- “Filmmaker Michael Moore examines America's health-care crisis and why millions of citizens are without coverage. Moore spotlights the cases of several ordinary citizens whose lives have been shattered by bureaucratic red tape, refusal of payment, and other health-care catastrophes. He explains how the system has become so problematic, and he visits countries where citizens receive free health care, as in Canada, France and the U.K.”
- What the Health? (2017)
- “Filmmaker Kip Andersen uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases, and he investigates why the nation's leading health organizations doesn't want people to know about it.”
- The Waiting Room (2012)
- “Filmmaker Peter Nicks chronicles events at a public hospital's emergency room, where the overworked staff and many uninsured patients must cope with disease, injury, bureaucracy and hard choices.”
- Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (2010)
- EliTalks: (Allows individuals and organizations to cultivate, transmit, and curate Jewish ideas and thoughts through digital conversations.)
- “The Healing of America” by T.R. Reid
- “Reid draws contrasts between health care systems in a half-a-dozen wealthy nations with the health care models followed in the United States, in a straightforward, easy to read narrative.”
- “Jewish Paths toward Healing and Wholeness” by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky
- “Grounded in the spiritual traditions of Judaism, this book provides healing rituals, psalms and prayers that help us initiate a dialogue with God, to guide us through the complicated path of healing and wholeness.”
- “Better” by Atul Gawande
- “The struggle to perform well is universal: each of us faces fatigue, limited resources, and imperfect abilities in whatever we do. But nowhere is this drive to do better more important than in medicine, where lives may be on the line with any decision.”
- “Facing Illness Finding God” by Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler
- “How Judaism can help you and caregivers cope when body or spirit fails. Finding spiritual strength for healing in the wisdom of Jewish tradition.”
- “To Your Health: The Torah Way to a Healthy Life in Modern Times” by Yechezkel Ishayek
- “The Torah tells us to guard our health, and here is a book to show us how. To Your Health combines the wisdom of Chazal, the teachings of the Rambam, along with recent scientific research and evidence-based medicine to provide proven strategies for eating better and living a healthier, happier, stress-free life.”
- “America’s Bitter Pill” by Steven Brill
- “Book on how the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was written, how it is being implemented, and, most important, how it is changing—and failing to change—the rampant abuses in the healthcare industry.”
- “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back” by Elisabeth Rosenthal
- “A shocking investigation into our dysfunctional healthcare system - and offers practical solutions to its myriad problems.”
- “Healing and the Jewish Imagination” edited by Rabbi William Cutter
- “Where Judaism and health intersect, healing may begin. Essential reading for people interested in the Jewish healing, spirituality and spiritual direction movements, this groundbreaking volume explores the Jewish tradition for comfort in times of illness and Judaism's perspectives on the inevitable suffering with which we live.”
- “The Healing of America” by T.R. Reid
- Helpful Articles:
- Fit City SA
- Powered by the Mayor’s Fitness Council, Fit City SA strives to increase awareness and connect San Antonio residents to opportunities for improved emotional well-being, physical activity, and healthy eating.
- San Antonio Health Office
- The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District provide public health programs, health education, and health information. Services include: immunizations, clinical services, STD testing, health education, disease control, and health code enforcement.
- Planned Parenthood SA
- Healthcare provider and advocate, that provides vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.
- Por Vida!
- A community of restaurants and businesses committed to offering healthy choices for San Antonio residents.
- Spend time doing healthy activities (or healthy eating!) with friends or family.
- Going to a local park
- Family exercise (i.e. walking, swimming, recreational activity)
- Cooking a healthy meal
- Prayer & Meditation:
- Jewish Meditation
- Ritual Well - Healing Services
- Ritual Well - Healing Illness
- “Mishkan R’fuah: Where Healing Resides”
- “This beautiful compilation contains contemplative readings and prayers for many different moments of spiritual need, including illness, surgery, treatment, chronic illness, hearing good news, transitions, addiction, infertility, end-of-life, and more.”
- “Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing” by Alden Solovy
- “This simple and profound collection of meditations, poetry and prayer is from well-known liturgist, Alden Solovy, whose voice emerged after the sudden death of his wife from traumatic brain injury. It tackles challenging topics including cancer, infertility, living with Alzheimer's disease, gun violence and alcoholism and includes a variety of memorial prayers.”
- Stay Informed:
- On current health and health care news/issues
- By talking to your health care provider and insurer
- By meeting with health experts in the community
- Jewish Values and Reform Movement Positions on Health Care