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Who's this: youth worker; artist; qualified magician; successful businessman; environmentalist; helicopter and jet pilot; landlord; published author; ex-sportsman; architecture activist; defender of faiths; armed forces officer; keen skier; villagebuilder; and champion of organic farming (long before this became fashionable)? By any measure, it is an impressively varied curriculum vitae. And that's without adding “heir to the throne,” a role that inevitably overshadows his other skills, knowledge, and experience.
The Prince of Wales's diverse interests are reflected in the 18 not-for-profit organisations that comprise The Prince's Charities group (16 of which he founded). Some, like The Prince's Trust, are very well known. But what about The Prince's Drawing School (“Three men and a pencil,” to give its unofficial nickname)?
Among the group is The Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health. Established in 1993, it aims to promote understanding of, build confidence in, and widen access to integrated health care. This it defines as “a combination of orthodox and complementary medicine that treats every illness in the wider context of the patient's circumstances—(eg, exercise, relationships, diet) and with reference to the whole person.”
The foundation has its work cut out in achieving these objectives, not least because it has commonly been seen as merely a cheerleader for complementary therapy. However skewed and unfair this view, it has (mis)informed the charity's reputation among patients and advocates of “orthodox” medicine.
Partly to counter that unhelpful perception, the charity has just launched a policy and research programme that focuses on integrated approaches for six common chronic illnesses: allergies, back pain, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and stress. This is brave stuff. Lessening the burden of any one of these debilitating problems would be a considerable achievement. To improve practice and outcomes for all six will take nerve, ingenuity, and perseverance.
Obvious barriers lie ahead. The foundation states that an integrated approach to health “brings together the safest and most effective aspects of mainstream medical science and complementary healthcare.” Yet these remain worlds that barely speak the same language, let alone understand or willingly work with one another.
And anyway, delivery of health care is often less about the noble (but somewhat fluffy) ideals of collaboration and more about the raw reality of competition for recognition and validation (such as the public's attention and trust, media coverage, grants, and other preferment). In such an atmosphere, cooperation and sharing of ideas with unlike-minded others may represent an unrewarding distraction.
Still, the foundation deserves luck in its efforts. The prince says, “Only through collaborative thinking can we paint a complete picture of world healing.” Difficult to argue with that.