Most patients wish their doctors would have a conversation with them about non-medical issues.

The Doctor-Patient Conversation, a survey conducted for the Samueli Foundation by the Harris Poll, examined how patients feel about their health, healthcare, and relationships with physicians. The Samueli Institute, has several missions including integrative health with a focuses on evidence-based practices for healing, wellbeing and resilience.

Patients are keen to learn about non-medication alternatives, like food-as-medicine, meditation, and acupuncture. But most doctors base their conversations with patients on purely medical options like lab test results and surgical procedures.

The top issues doctors discuss with patients are physical health (74%), test results (56%), medications (52%), and exercise (51%), only one-third broach the subject of mental health. Furthermore, only 44% discuss food, 40% sleep, 13% the patient’s environment, and 11% what brings a person joy and happiness.


Only 10% of doctors talk about non-medication approaches to health — like meditation, massage, or acupuncture.

The study also found that nine in ten consumers felt they had a lot or a great deal of control over their health, and that health is “so much more than just not being sick.” The latter is consistent with the World Health Organization’s definition of health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The Harris Poll surveyed 2,027 U.S. online adults 18 and older in September 2018.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  The Samueli survey further enforces the mental and social health aspects that WHO raises in its conception of health and well-being: 59% of people say “being happy,” 56% say “being calm and relaxed,” and 53% say “being able to live independently” define health.

On the financial wellness front, note that 34% of people said “being able to pay my bills” also fed into one’s definition of health.

If you check out WHO’s mission and definition of health, you’d read bullets two through four as follows:

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.

The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all.”

As we build bridges in Congress to make healthcare better for everyone in the U.S., these precepts remind us about the moral and ethical dimensions of public health.