The health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review

The health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review

Cohen, M., Naidoo, D. (2008) The health impact of residential retreats: A systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 18(8): 1-17 [Paper] [PubMed]

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
Unhealthy lifestyles are a major factor in the development and exacerbation of many chronic diseases. Improving lifestyles though immersive residential experiences that promote healthy behaviours is a focus of the health retreat industry. This systematic review aims to identify and explore published studies on the health, wellbeing and economic impact of retreat experiences.

METHODS:
MEDLINE, CINAHL and PsychINFO databases were searched for residential retreat studies in English published prior to February 2017. Studies were included if they were written in English, involved an intervention program in a residential setting of one or more nights, and included before-and-after data related to the health of participants. Studies that did not meet the above criteria or contained only descriptive data from interviews or case studies were excluded.

RESULTS:
A total of 23 studies including eight randomised controlled trials, six non-randomised controlled trials and nine longitudinal cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. These studies included a total of 2592 participants from diverse geographical and demographic populations and a great heterogeneity of outcome measures, with seven studies examining objective outcomes such as blood pressure or biological makers of disease, and 16 studies examining subjective outcomes that mostly involved self-reported questionnaires on psychological and spiritual measures. All studies reported post-retreat health benefits ranging from immediately after to five-years post-retreat. Study populations varied widely and most studies had small sample sizes, poorly described methodology and little follow-up data, and no studies reported on health economic outcomes or adverse effects, making it difficult to make definite conclusions about specific conditions, safety or return on investment.

CONCLUSIONS:
Health retreat experiences appear to have health benefits that include benefits for people with chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, various cancers, HIV/AIDS, heart conditions and mental health. Future research with larger numbers of subjects and longer follow-up periods are needed to investigate the health impact of different retreat experiences and the clinical populations most likely to benefit. Further studies are also needed to determine the economic benefits of retreat experiences for individuals, as well as for businesses, health insurers and policy makers.

Working Up a Good Sweat – The challenges of standardising sweat collection for metabolomics analysis.

Working Up a Good Sweat – The challenges of standardising sweat collection for metabolomics analysis.

Hussain, J., Mantri, N., Cohen, M. (2017) Working Up a Good Sweat – The challenges of standardising sweat collection for metabolomics analysis. Clinical Biochemistry Reviews 38(1):11-34 

Abstract

 

Introduction: Human sweat is a complex biofluid of interest to diverse scientific fields. Metabolomics analysis of sweat promises to improve screening, diagnosis and self-monitoring of numerous conditions through new applications and greater personalisation of medical interventions. Before these applications can be fully developed, existing methods for the collection, handling, processing and storage of human sweat need to be revised. This review presents a cross-disciplinary overview of the origins, composition, physical characteristics and functional roles of human sweat, and explores the factors involved in standardising sweat collection for metabolomics analysis. Methods: A literature review of human sweat analysis over the past 10 years (2006-2016) was performed to identify studies with metabolomics or similarly applicable ‘omics’ analysis. These studies were reviewed with attention to sweat induction and sampling techniques, timing of sweat collection, sweat storage conditions, laboratory derivation, processing and analytical platforms. Results: Comparative analysis of 20 studies revealed numerous factors that can significantly impact the validity, reliability and reproducibility of sweat analysis including: anatomical site of sweat sampling, skin integrity and preparation; temperature and humidity at the sweat collection sites; timing and nature of sweat collection; metabolic quenching; transport and storage; qualitative and quantitative measurements of the skin microbiota at sweat collection sites; and individual variables such as diet, emotional state, metabolic conditions, pharmaceutical, recreational drug and supplement use. Conclusion: Further development of standard operating protocols for human sweat collection can open the way for sweat metabolomics to significantly add to our understanding of human physiology in health and disease.

Complementary Medicine and the Medical Profession: A Survey of Medical Students Attitudes

Complementary Medicine and the Medical Profession: A Survey of Medical Students Attitudes

Hopper, I. and Cohen M., Complementary Medicine and the Medical Profession: A Survey of Medical Students Attitudes. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1998, 3(4);68-73

Abstract

 

BACKGROUND:
Despite the popularity of complementary therapies with the public, knowledge and use of these therapies among doctors appear limited. However, studies show that physicians and medical students are positive toward complementary therapies and have a high level of interest in learning about them.
METHODS:
The attitudes of medical students toward complementary therapies were examined using a questionnaire distributed to 800 first-, third-, and fifth-year medical students at two universities in Melbourne, Australia.
RESULTS:
The survey revealed that whereas Australian medical students were positive toward complementary therapies, their self-reported knowledge was low, with 56% having no knowledge of the principles of complementary therapies. Attitudes toward different therapies were found to vary widely, with students having little knowledge of chiropractic and naturopathy, the two therapies most commonly used by Australians. Students consistently scored meditation, massage, and acupuncture the highest with regard to knowledge, perceived usefulness, intended patterns of referral after graduation, and desire for education in the undergraduate degree.
CONCLUSIONS:
When the medical course included some tuition on complementary therapies, students were more positive toward them. A single lecture on complementary therapies was found to have significant impact on medical students’ views. Medical students have a high level of interest in complementary therapies that is not being satisfied by their undergraduate curricula.

Physician Heal Thyself: Lifestyle Education for Medical Students

Physician Heal Thyself: Lifestyle Education for Medical Students

Cohen M. Physician Heal Thyself: Lifestyle Education for Medical Students. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 7(2): 110-112, 199

Abstract

 

It is paradoxical that while doctors are the primary providers of healthcare, they represent one of the most unhealthy professional groups. It seems that this starts in medical school and is reinforced by hospital training, which acts as a rite of passage to enter the profession. Traditionally, medical students are subjected to years of long hours of study and exam stress with few outlets for creative expression or stress relief, apart from the drunken frenzy of the occasional medical student ball. This was certainly my experience of medical training in the 1980s. Luckily, I was able to broaden my outlook by taking 4 years off my undergraduate course to pursue a broader perspective on health and to apply this experience through part-time work at an innovative private hospital. This piece describes how this has led me to introduce Australia’s first residential health enhancement program for medical students.

Detox: Science or Sales-pitch?

Detox: Science or Sales-pitch?

Cohen, M. Detox: Science or Sales-pitch? Australian Family Physician, 2007, 36(12) 1009-1010

Abstract

 

There is no question that the world is becoming increasingly toxic, with worldwide dissemination of industrial chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals and radioactive elements. Many of these toxins have demonstrated harmful effects including cancer, reproductive, metabolic, and mental health effects. It is also known that many toxins undergo bioaccumulation through the food chain and that synergistic effects can occur whereby combinations of toxins can be more potent than the sum of individual toxins.