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A Return to Healing Reviews 

From PW Web Exclusives, August 17, 2009:

A Return to Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine

Len Saputo with Byron Belitsos. Origin (AtlasBooks, dist.), $21.95 (272p)

After his wife was cured of a critical illness through natural therapies, M.D. Saputo retrained his career on the principles of integrative medicine. Here, he pitches his plan as a holistic four-stage approach to health: lifestyle management (including diet, exercise and spirituality); complementary and alternative medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, etc.); thorough testing; and, lastly, a sparing role for pharmaceuticals and other, more invasive methods. Pushing back against physicians who have “essentially become employees of large business conglomerates,” Saputo says that Americans’ “lavish use of pharmaceuticals” isn’t helping, just making them dependent. Saputo discusses competing models of healthcare before turning his attention to the business of it, finding the profit motive largely to blame for the industry’s “dire condition.” Based on experience in his own clinic, Saputo proposes a five-part plan to improve healthcare, including subsidies for sustainable agriculture, taxes on unhealthy foods, and requiring, as part of patients’ medical right-to-know, full disclosure of all scientifically verified treatments, including “alternative” methods. Doctors and patients will appreciate Saputo’s conviction, energy and clear-eyed approach to the complicated issue. (Sept.)


From Publishers Weekly, August 17, 2009:

The Heal Deal: New Health Titles
New health titles range from the political to the practical

by Sarah J. Robbins

. . . After 30 years in private practice in internal medicine, Len Saputo reacted to the flaws he saw in the system by founding the nonprofit educational foundation the Health Medicine Forum. There he began crafting his vision for a medical system focused on holism, prevention and service; those ideas are now presented in A Return to Healing from Origin Press. Recently Saputo and his coauthor, Origin Press publisher Byron Belitsos, spent two weeks on Capitol Hill, lobbying on behalf of the ideas in the book. “One could sense, with each meeting we had, how gridlocked Congress is with special interests,” says Belitsos. “How it has wholesale adopted the industry point of view on the issues.” While Saputo is also pessimistic about current reform efforts—“There are so many politics involved, we can’t get to the issues,” he says—he is optimistic about long-term possibilities: “Things have gotten so bad that we’ve actually come out of our coma, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be inspired enough to bring America to a place where the social transformation is real.”


New Consciousness Review

“This is an immensely important book at this time of national debate on the future of health care in America…A Return To Healing needs to be read by every politician, medical practitioner and citizen. It is a manifesto for what health care should be, and what it can be with honest and intelligent reform.”
—Miriam Knight, New Consciousness Review

This is an immensely important book at this time of national debate on the future of health care in America.

While Dr. Saputo may be rushing into a political melee where even angels fear to tread, he is certainly no fool. An internal medicine practitioner for forty years, he began to see another side of medicine when medical science failed his wife, condemning her to a downward spiral of drugs and steroids. In desperation, they began to research and employ alternative therapies, and she was eventually able to regain her health.

When Dr Saputo shared his results with his medical colleagues, their reactions ranged from indifference to hostility. This was a major wake-up call to someone who had dedicated himself to being a healer. How could these doctors turn their collective backs on treatments that could relieve suffering? They had all sworn the Hippocratic Oath, “First do no harm…”, yet they closed their minds to a promising treatment protocol, just because it was not part of conventional medical practice. Dr. Saputo embarked on a mission to put the wellness of his patients ahead of the medical orthodoxy of the system and offer them the best healing practices from both conventional and alternative medicine.

In order to do that he had to create a new model of “health care” radically different from the “disease care” practiced today. To do so he faced the censure of his colleagues, the state medical board and even legal challenges. All he wanted to do was to offer his patients a choice regarding their own health care. (Sound familiar?)

The first part of the book cites chapter and verse about the incestuous relationship between the drug companies and doctors, researchers and politicians; it describes how hospitals and health insurance companies have morphed from service industries to profit-driven corporations, and all of them together have created the failed system we have today. He quotes one hair-raising fact after another from sources like respected medical journals, the Congressional Record, the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health:

  • Medical mistakes are the leading cause of death in US
  • No more than 15% of medical interventions are supported by reliable scientific evidence, The FDA approved bad drugs like Vioxx and Lupron, that cost tens of thousands of lives, but 90 studies that showed that vitamin D from sunshine reduces cancer risk by 50% have been suppressed
  • Half of all bankruptcies in America are due to medical bills
  • By 2017, 1$ out of every 5$ spent, will be on health care
  • The US spends more money per capita than anyone, but is #37 in health outcomes in the world, just above Slovenia and Cuba

Dr. Saputo has created a group practice through considerable trial and error that offers a fascinating model that could revolutionize health outcomes, patient and doctor satisfaction, and still be more economical than the current system. He calls it “Integral Health Care”, adapting the philosophy of Ken Wilber. Depending on the needs of his patients, Dr. Saputo wants to shift the priorities from disease management focused on drugs, expensive diagnostics and surgery, to health management, starting with prevention and health education, then the greater use of gentler alternatives like herbs, chiropractic, acupuncture and guided imagery, with drugs and surgery as options of last resort.

His practice has pioneered the use of Healing Circles that include the patient, his/her health champion (the lead practitioner) and a panel of other complementary practitioners relevant to the particular case. Both patient and doctor satisfaction have soared with this approach. The problem is that the insurance companies will not cover much of it, even though it is cheaper and more cost effective, so this kind of enlightened health care is only available to those who pay out of pocket or pro bono.

Dr. Saputo thinks that a single payer insurance system would be a big step forward. The present system is untenable. It is as bad for patients and doctors as it is for the economy and the national deficit. It is time for an informed public to pressure the politicians, who seem to be paralyzed by the fear of losing campaign funding from Big Pharma and the rest of the medical-industrial complex.

This book needs to be read by every politician, medical practitioner and citizen. It is a manifesto for what health care should be, and what it can be with honest and intelligent reform.


The North Bay Bohemian, “Break the System”, September 2009

By Gretchen Giles

A Duke University–educated physician, Len Saputo should have been able to help his wife, a trained nurse, better when she suffered her first life-threatening anaphylactic attack. Or her second. But by her 23rd attack, in a Hong Kong hotel far from their California home, he was not only spooked and worried, but downright abject about his own inability to cure his wife. His colleagues recommended a course of Prednisone, which caused her face to balloon and her ankle to crack with a mere misstep. Something else had to be done.

As it turned out, Saputo's wife was reacting to the hundreds of allergens that are the regular byproduct of modern life. By sticking to a strict regime of food and environmental restrictions, she has been able to live off the drugs and without suffering anaphylactic attack No. 24. And her husband has been radicalized.

With the country seemingly paralyzed by the buffoonery that passes for the Town Hall healthcare debates, Dr. Saputo has some common sense wisdom for Washington. His newest book is A Return to Healing. He appears at Readers Books on Aug. 27 to offer his own prescription for America's healthcare woes. First on the list? Get rid of prescriptions, at least those big pharma drugs that treat after-the-fact symptoms instead of before-it-happens modifications.

Co-written with Marin County resident Byron Belitsos, A Return to Healing offers its own five-point plan for changing the country, beginning with mandating an hour's worth of daily exercise for everyone, young and old, and taxing junk food as severely as we do alcohol and cigarettes. The two seek to expand the role of and the insurance coverage for such complementary and alternative medical practices as Chinese herbology, acupuncture and chiropractics, healing methods embraced in other cultures and pooh-poohed in our HMO-dominated medical system.

They demand an overhaul of the FDA, a government arm so overrun by the needs of the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry as to be its puppet. They support single-payer health insurance that covers all citizens and suggest that consumers should always have access to alternative therapies.

With their emphasis on preventative life-style changes—exercise and leafy greens cost the healthcare industry not a single sou—one would think that Saputo and Belitsos' recommendations would be warmly embraced. One would, of course, be wrong.


We Should Get Medical, Not Political

examiner.com / August 12, 2009
Tony R. Rodriguez

With the Obama administration incessantly making headlines with their grandiose visions for the future of national health care, it seems many politicos on both sides of the aisle are pushing a heavily layered political agenda. A growing number of Americans seem to be stricken with uncertainty when listening to the debates surrounding Capitol Hill. Perhaps one can assume that various politicians are missing the linear view of America’s dire need for radical change in health care. So let’s all consider A Return to Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine by Len Saputo, MD, with Byron Belitsos.

Saputo and Belitsos don’t inundate the health care debate with dribbled political language all too commonly used by Washington or learned pundits from San Francisco to New York. Rather, Saputo and Belitsos comprehensively lay out what they believe to be a radical, yet direct and tangible view for recognizing the future of health care. A Return to Healing addresses many topics deeply seeded in our nation’s health care debate. Most notably of which would include whether or not current mainstream medicine is productive; the realities of market-driven health care plans; and the troubles with big pharmaceutical companies and their ties to Congress and physicians and various medical institutions. And so on.

Saputo and Belitsos partner to bring to the masses their inclusive discussion on the progressive changes needed to take place in today’s American health field. These two are not political, they’re medical. They’re not agenda-based, they’re reality-based. And though their book’s title may suggest that their views may be radical, they’re far from the extreme. Saputo and Belitsos are merely two qualified spokespeople who are getting more and more Americans aware of what’s really going on in our nation’s health care systems.


Midwest Book Review:

Something has got to change about American health care, and many people just don't know what. A Return to Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine is a discussion of the current health care crisis and how to go about finding a solution. With some unique and cutting edge ideas, author Len Saputo offers readers much food for thought in what is really important in medicine, and what could cut costs and lead to healthier America. Another fresh and original perspective on the health care debate, A Return to Healing is a fine and recommended read.


booknews.com (SciTechBooks):

Considering the many issues facing health care in the US today, Saputo suggests reforms that move beyond an exclusive focus on symptoms and the body alone. He contends that there are three main flaws in the system: the “disease-care” medical model, i.e. the over-reliance on invasive techniques to suppress symptoms; the corporatization of health care which drives up costs in the pursuit of profit; and our systematic inattention to wellness and prevention. Describing his medical training and his own journey toward integrative medicine, he argues that there should be a return to healing and preventive medicine. He proposes a holistic approach which focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle throughout the lifespan and applying integrative, preventive, and natural techniques while turning to invasive, expensive, allopathic treatments only as a last resort. He critiques scientific medicine and the drug industry, traces the birth of the health medicine movement and his role in it, and recommends universal health care and reforms to the FDA. Saputo, a doctor of internal medicine, developed integral-health medicine and founded an integrative clinic, the Health Medicine Center, in California. Distributed by AtlasBooks. (Annotation ©2009 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)


Spirituality & Health magazine:

The national debate over health care reform has become explosive and vitriolic. “It’s going to be a huge battle,” says Dr. Len Saputo, citing the opposition of private health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry to changes in the current paradigm. “We need to put a graceful end to the commercialized disease care organism itself. This begins when we challenge its scientific assumptions from the standpoint of the new integral medicine model, while moving toward radically reforming its flawed systems of research, regulation, financing, and delivery. We say radical reform because the system is broken and the lives and health of millions of families…are now at stake.”

Among the deeper issues that have caused skyrocketing costs, poor results (US health care quality now ranks only 37th in the world), and an epidemic of chronic disease in the American population, Dr. Saputo counts the failure of medical doctors to address less-than-optimal wellness before a disease process takes hold, and when it does, to treat symptoms with pharmaceutical drugs in spite of their known and possibly lethal side-effects and risks of dependency, resistance, or addiction.

Dr. Saputo suggests a new integrative model based on a treatment hierarchy that gives priority to prevention and non-invasive treatments as the first line of defense. Such a model would honor the patient’s personal preferences and the sacred physician-patient bond, and incorporate integrative or holistic practices, making it more cost effective. It would fund research that is truly objective and not influenced by corporate interests, require a thorough reform of the FDA, and take into account the social and environmental influences on health.

This book is necessary reading for all citizens, no matter what their current beliefs about health care reform. No one who understands the facts and statistics Dr. Saputo presents can deny that action must be taken. No one who reads the personal stories of those let down by our broken health care system can deny that the time to take action is now.

Dr. Len Saputo is a graduate of Duke University Medical School, and a board certified internist with 30 years in private practice. He developed Integral-Health Medicine, a new paradigm in health care, and founded and directs the Health Medicine Center in Walnut Creek, California. Dr. Saputo has written and spoken extensively on many topics in mainstream and complimentary medicine and is engaged in clinical research on the use of near-infrared light in pain therapy. Byron Belitsos was educated at the University of Chicago, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and the University of California and is a widely published journalist and writer.


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