Balneotherapy = water therapy + X in the bathroom?

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A report of Nora Laubstein on the 13th Vincenz Priessnitz conference at 5th - 7th October in Jesenik, Czech Republic (ANME + DNB)

The main issue of this year’s conference was defined by the operators, the Spolecnost (association) Vincenze Priessnitze z.s. and the Priessnitz Spa AG (Priessnitzovy lecebne lazne a.s.) as follows: „The history and present of the spa therapy in Central Europe“

The chairperson of the „Association Vincenz Priessnitz“ Dr. Jaroslav Novotny started the conference with his lecture on the effect of balneotherapy on mentally ill people. Basis of his study was the Knobloch-questionaire no5 which couldn’t provide clear results in single measures though. The study started with 100 patients in 2007 and finished with 69 persons. All participants were suffering from anxiety disorders and were asked 33 questions on subjective improvements. During the whole time the existing pharmaceutical medication was not changed.

The health resorts had to cover the costs for this qualitative research themselves, although depression is currently the most common disease in the Czech Republic. In order to have at least the treatment costs covered a psychiatrist has to make a stigmatizing diagnosis.

Besides the salutary conditions of a health resort (climate, environment, reputation) walks, social activities belong to the indispensable factors of a hydro therapeutic treatment. A treatment period of 21 until 28 days is considered a medical treatment and will be paid for by the public system if a prescription of a psychiatrist is on hand.

The Czech historian Fladen Hanulik points to e.g. the epoch of Romantic with magical conception of nature, idealization and an „enchanted landscape“. A philosophy of natural form and a naked patient who enjoys the nature was ruling.

How much of the original Priessnitz still exists today? This historic-cultural aspect forms the antipode to the lectures of medical-oriented contributors. Over 3000 discharge reports are in the archive that the city Jesenik maintains carefully and opens up for interested persons. Besides the support of the museums and the mausoleum (tomb and resting place) the „Association Vincenz Priessnitz“ is keeping an intense exchange with the „German Naturopathy Association“ (DNB), formerly “Priessnitz-association”, since over six years. The DNB provides a German delegation next to the Czech conference participants. Their representative, the first vice-president Ursula Gieringer conveyed her attachment to the teaching of Priessnitz in her talk on the DNB’s issue of the year „Rhythms of Nature“. Nowadays one of the Priessnitz principles under the term of “resilience training” is politically relevant: Away from external regulation towards self-regulation!

Perspectives - What does this mean for Balneotherapy and Hydrotherapy? 

The starting situation for users and providers has totally changed. Naturopathy associations, Kneipp associations, single citizens have further on access, but there are big difficulties to continue the tradition (age, legal, club structures, leisure behavior, honorary office, etc.). Providers today have to stick to strict provisions in many areas, document and follow consumer rights/patient rights.

Like all naturopathy performances and offers also Balneotherapy is newly evaluated and judged after criteria of conventional medicine (EBM - evidence based medicine). At the same time health insurances were shifted into an economical competition. In the cloak of „modernization“and „improvement“a cost redistribution started: The gadget and pharmaceutical industry as well as centralization of facilities gained top priority.

  • The public health and welfare system, the so-called first market, withdrew the funding; the communities build new public swimming baths, the old cure-facilities decay and could rarely suffice to the new building regulations. At the same time humans developed a desire for leisure and fun and diverged more and more from the classical pure teachings of hydrotherapy. 
  • the private health-care sector, the second market, developed an own innovative dynamic. Everything that dropped out of the public refund-practice or didn’t meet the public requirements didn’t find a home here. Private health insurances, additional insurances or self-financing support an individual health related development.

The World Health Organization WHO has defined „health” and speaks a.o. of „Wellbeing“from which a new term WELLNESS occurred. The feeling well is closely accompanied by FITNESS, becoming fit, being fit and staying fit!

Conclusion: About 20% of the announced 100 listeners appeared. Jesenik as beautiful venue is located in the East of the Czech Republic close to the Polish border which is difficult to get to. That is why there were just a really few Non-Czech guests. Whether xenophobia constitutes one of the common anxiety disorders in the Czech Republic? Before 170 years Vincenz Priessnitz was a citizen of the k.a.k-monarchy Austria-Hungary and he treated humans from all Europe… cars and airplanes didn’t yet exist. The destiny of his water cures points to a growing challenge of CAM: The acceptance of the original through users and patients as well as the consequences of reassessment and cost/benefit-calculations comes across resistance. This conference asked many questions, but still no discussion took place…

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