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On health DVDs, the doctor is always in

You may be used to the idea of picking up your prescriptions at the grocery store, but experts at the venerable Mayo Clinic would like you to be able to find a doctor there, too, while you're stocking up on almonds, carrots, blueberries and other superfoods.

Mayo doctors are now available at Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble — for about $20 apiece. These physicians aren't great listeners, but they'll throw in a yoga session for free.

In an uncommon method of making basic health care information more accessible, the Mayo Clinic has teamed with wellness company Gaiam on a series of 10 DVDs that address common conditions and the best methods for dealing with them.

The Mayo doctors are not afraid to champion yoga, meditation, chiropractic care, acupuncture and other "alternative" wellness solutions as helpful ways to deal with chronic problems.

Each video, in fact, includes full yoga and meditation sessions by Gaiam yoga guru Rodney Yee. These lessons are designed to be easy for beginners.

"Hopefully (this approach is) going to get more common," said Dr. Brent Bauer, board certified in internal medicine and a doctor who helped create the series.

From Mayo Clinic headquarters in Rochester, Minn., Bauer said, "A lot of it is driven by the patients: Consumers and patients alike are getting more in tune to, 'We're going to have to take care of ourselves. Medicare and insurance companies — they're not going to take care of us.'

"None of (the DVDs) is saying, 'Conventional medicine is not good, don't use it.' But why not look at the bigger picture? What are the things we can control? How do we empower the consumer to take charge of their health in a way that is understandable?"

Individual DVDs focus on arthritis, back pain, excessive weight, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, the need to improve heart health, irritable bowel syndrome, menopause, fibromyalgia and insomnia.

Bauer, who plays a central role in each DVD, is director of complementary and integrative medicine for Mayo Clinics. It's a catch-all term for melding traditional health care with so-called alternative approaches.

Bauer's soothing voice and easy manner set the tone for the DVDs, designed to make people "feel as if the doctor is talking directly to them," he said.

All of the videos include "action plans" that emphasize proper nutrition and exercise. In each, Bauer states, "What you put in your mouth every day has a direct effect on how you feel and how your body functions."

Each disc includes a booklet with tips on managing stress, another preventive method that most doctors can't address during the 10 minutes they typically have to treat the average patient.

"We really start to understand this 'mind and body' stuff more and more," Bauer said. "If you think about Americans, what do we do? We get up early in the morning, race to work, work, work.

"We're so wired to be on the grid all the time. That's a big part of what is hurting us."

If the concept sounds a little New Age, Bauer is quick to point out that "Mayo Clinic is a fairly conservative organization" that tries to provide the "best information possible."

Its experts give details, but in simpler terms. Doctors debunk myths and present a number of possible approaches, noting that what works for one person may not work for another.

Similarly, Yee makes the yoga and meditation sessions easy to follow. (One of the quirks of the DVDs, however, is that viewers are advised to talk to their doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sensible advice, but it launches viewers back into the tangled health care system.)

Bauer sees the DVDs as, above all, helping people in ways their primary-care physicians may not be able to.

"Even beyond health care costs, it's the question of, 'Do we want to live a long time, or do we want to live well?'

". . . If we get balance into our lives, certainly you're going to live longer, but I'm even more interested in the possibility of living better."

Sharon Ginn is a Tampa freelance writer. She can be reached at sharonlginn@yahoo.com.

On health DVDs, the doctor is always in 03/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 4:10pm]
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