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Objective 3: Foster Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

NCCIH_Flow Yoga Spring 2015

Individual behavior plays a key role in health promotion and disease prevention. It is well established that adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors (e.g., good eating habits and regular physical exercise) and modifying unhealthy behaviors (e.g., quitting smoking) reduce risks of major chronic diseases.

Additionally, a small but growing evidence base suggests a potential benefit of complementary health approaches for the purposes of wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention. More research is needed to better understand how certain complementary health approaches can be useful in encouraging better self-care, improving a personal sense of well-being, and promoting a greater commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

The use of complementary health approaches to promote wellness is a relatively new research focus area for NCCIH, but wellness is a familiar concept to many people who use these approaches. In fact, national survey data indicate that more people use complementary approaches to promote health and wellness than to treat a specific illness. In the 2012 NHIS, 94 percent of respondents who practiced yoga and 89 percent of those who used natural product supplements said that they did so for reasons related to wellness; much smaller numbers used these approaches as a treatment. Seventy-two percent of respondents who practiced yoga cited its focus on the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—as one of their reasons for using this practice.

NCCIH is committed to exploring the potential of complementary health approaches to foster health promotion and disease prevention across the lifespan. This includes a focus on methodologically rigorous evaluations that will lead to a greater understanding of whether, when, how, and for whom such practices can have substantial impact, including an understanding of how a formative stage intervention can impact adult health and wellbeing. In addition, the Center is interested in exploring the potential of “omics” technologies to identify optimal health promotion and disease prevention strategies at the individual level.