The Roseto Effect

In 1962, a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania was discovered to have a medical mystery: a mortality rate from heart disease that was less than half that of any other locale. That, in and of itself, is remarkable. But when noted alongside the fact that these townies smoked like chimneys, drank wine as though it flowed from faucets, worked in notoriously toxic environments, and ate cholesterol-laden and lard-fried foods…well…Roseto, PA raised a few eyebrows.

     In a scene from the movie Outbreak, investigators descended upon Roseto with the blessings of Federal and State governments to learn why Roseto had one of the healthiest communities in the world. Said sociologist John Bruhn, one of the original investigators, “There was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. They didn’t have anyone on welfare. Then we looked at peptic ulcers. They didn’t have any of those either. These people were dying of old age. That’s it.”

     Why? How? Was it something in the water? A genetic component unique to their Italian heritage? No. The Rosetans’ hearts were simply nourished by Love.

     Families were close knit, self-supportive and independent, and they also relied (in bad times) on the greater community for assistance and friendly help. Rosetans, regardless of income and education, expressed themselves in a family-centered social life. There was a total absence of pretension among the wealthy, meaning that those who had more money didn’t flaunt it and they helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures. There was nearly exclusive patronage of local businesses, even with nearby bigger shops and stores in neighboring towns. Wealthier towns suffered from heart disease even though their medical facilities, diet, and occupations were better or equivalent to the Rosetans. No one was alone in Roseto. No one seemed too unhappy or too stressed out. And the proof was in a heart attack death rate almost half that of everyone else around them.

     I love this story because it reminds me about what’s most important in our community acupuncture practices (CAP):

  • Love for our patients is more valuable than lifestyle coaching or nutritional counseling.
  • The friendships we foster and the family ties we support in our multi-chair treatment rooms provide the foundation for healthy communities outside its walls. Two-for-Tuesdays offer more value than building our patient bases and introducing acupuncture to newbies…they knit the networks that nourish our Hearts.
  • Our narrow sliding scale promotes an absence of ostention. If our scale slid from $15 to $65, those on the lower end might feel that their acu-care was being subsidized by the wealthier; but at $15 – $35, everyone pays into the clinic equally.
  • Many of our CAP’s support local businesses through community-supported agriculture partnerships, community artwork initiatives, and other locale-specific partnerships. These efforts at outreach breathe Qi into the fabric of our neighborhoods.
  • A handful of nickel-needles can hold their own in terms of medical prowess…expensive, fancy medical equipment be damned.

     Connecting our communities, bringing joyfulness into our experiences, removing the sticky film of stress that coats so many of our patients…these simple tasks can recreate the Roseto-effect in each of our CAP’s. May the efforts in our CAP’s rebuild Loving communities from coast-to-coast.

(To read more about the history of Roseto, take a peek at the prologue of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”.)

Jessica Feltz
Author: Jessica Feltz

<p> I learned about Community Acupuncture while studying at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine (MCOM) in the Spring of 2006 when Lisa Rohleder's first article about her clinic appeared in Acupuncture Today. Coming from a middle-class background myself, I was the only student in my acupuncture class to have not experienced the healing benefits of this medicine prior to beginning studies at MCOM. I couldn't afford it. And my family couldn't understand what I was doing by investing in an education that they didn't perceive to be financially sustainable. </p> <p> The Community Acupuncture model is a perfect fit for me, balancing social justice and taoist simplicity with the patient's innate ability to heal him/herself (with a few gentle nudges from strategically placed needles). I am grateful every day to have found CAN and the love it brings into my life. I want to share that joy by spreading the message about how we can create a new health care experience in our communities through each of our very small efforts...and how those very small efforts can in turn change the world. </p> I enjoy my two sons, my 4 cats, and big stacks of books.  I own and operate...

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  1. i love this ….

    “they knit the networks that nourish our Hearts.”  thanks Jess

    (ooops, didn’t realize that shosho was logged in, this is keith)