Complementary Medicine: A Research Perspective

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Research Methods and Research Problems. The Quality of Medical Information and. Evaluation of Herbalism Homeopathy.

Adverse Effects of Orthodox and Complementary. A Research Perspective Dr. Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Briggs JP, Killen J. Perspectives on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research.

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The rise and rise of complementary and alternative medicine: a sociological perspective

Purchase access Subscribe to the journal. Attention was given to the social and environmental context of health. Health promoters keen to incorporate aspects of complementary medicine into their work often complained at the limitations imposed by government control and management priorities. The costs of complementary medicine concerned some participants in the UK who were worried about equal access to health resources. American participants were keen to stress the low cost of complementary therapies in comparison with biomedicine. Most health promoters argued that poverty was the main cause of ill health.

However, they were divided concerning the appropriateness of health promotion pursuing structural changes. The research identified some interesting examples of CAM incorporated into community action initiatives, but it was quite clear that those health promoters most committed to a social model of health promotion were least likely to argue in favour of greater collaboration with CAM.

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Participants rarely discussed issues related to gender, race or sexuality in this study. However, issues of culture were discussed at length and, while some cultures were seen as particularly sympathetic to CAM, it was recognized that other groups object to CAM on religious grounds. Although there was recognition of the importance of the physical environment to health, there was only marginal reference to either the local environment or global concerns in this study.

Participants discussed the nature of health promotion and debated whether promoting health was the same as health promotion. There was considerable confusion regarding the meaning s of health promotion. Many complementary therapists appeared to use the term health promotion when talking of health education. Health promoters discussed the different models used in health promotion and many of them were interested in developing new approaches. Particular attention was given to the empowerment model and participants debated issues of choice and responsibility.

We need to find things that can help empower people Complementary therapists were mostly committed to increasing personal responsibility for health, but many health promoters saw this as a form of victim blaming. There was also disagreement as to whether complementary therapies offer an empowering approach to health. Training for health promoters in and about CAM was discussed in detail and most health promoters called for more training in this area.


There was also a call for more and better health promotion publications on CAM. There was some criticism of materials produced to date and a lack of training materials was noted. Complementary therapists were clearly in favour of greater collaboration and were more likely than health promoters to see this as an inevitable development.

Health promoters were more divided. Most considered that closer links would be desirable:. I just think that the increase in complementary therapies will provoke health promotion to do something about it. However, only half considered that positive developments were likely in the foreseeable future. Many difficulties were identified, such as: To be effective in the 21st Century, health promotion must work in partnership with other professions.

At the structural level, health promotion should continue working closely with public health. At the individual and community levels, the study indicates that health promotion could benefit from closer collaboration with at least some forms of CAM. A list of potential benefits, based on the research findings, is presented in Table 1. This is not to deny that there are significant difficulties involved in collaborative work in this area, and specific suggestions designed to help overcome these difficulties and suggestions for further research are included in this section.

The first recommendation is that the issue of collaboration with CAM merits consideration by national health promotion agencies.

These organizations should review their positions and clarify their roles in relation to CAM. Each national health promotion organization should have a position statement on CAM and a named person to respond to enquiries on the HP—CAM interface. National organizations with responsibility for health promotion should also fund research projects designed to identify and evaluate health promotion activities at the interface. Where possible, national organizations for CAM should play a similar role to health promotion organizations in relation to leadership at the HP—CAM interface.

Health promoters, biomedicine and the public demand more evidence concerning the safety and efficacy of complementary medicine and more research clearly needs to be carried out. However, health promoters also recognize that CAM does not entirely lend itself to traditional research techniques. Further recommendations are, therefore, that new styles of research should be explored and that more appropriate research tools be devised to complement traditional research methods.

Many participants in this study were unsure as to what counted as CAM and there was no overall agreement on which therapies should be included in any integration with health promotion.


Some health promoters seek guidance concerning the merits of different therapies and research is needed to determine whether health promoters interested in CAM should limit their involvement to particular therapies. Further research is needed into the extent to which CAM is compatible with different models of health promotion. For example, this study found little compatibility between CAM and the social change model of health promotion, but this needs further investigation. Similarly, some participants questioned whether CAM is empowering and some voiced concerns about the potential victim blaming involved in CAM.

Further work is needed to address these concerns and, in particular, to explore the concept of responsibility for health as it is understood on either side of the interface. It is also important for health promoters to examine the spiritual dimension of health in relation to the interface. Inclusion of a spiritual dimension to health appeared to be a defining characteristic of CAM for many complementary therapists and yet it is an area that most health promoters avoid, at least in practice Hill, ; Hill and Stears, Another area relevant to this study concerns the training of complementary therapists in the theory and practice of health promotion, and vice versa.

The study found that many health promoters were concerned about the health promotion offered by complementary therapists. The study also found that most complementary therapists had little understanding of the key issues in professional health promotion. The health promotion content of all CAM courses should be reviewed to ensure appropriate coverage of relevant health promotion issues. Similarly, suitable training in and about CAM is requested by and needed for health promoters if they are to work in this area. The research reported in this paper explored the professional interface between health promotion and CAM, identifying the potential for greater collaboration and closer integration between the two.

It is hoped that this paper will help engender and contribute to a debate concerning the future direction and focus of the interface, and that the recommendations will encourage further research and help overcome the many obstacles that stand in the way of future partnership.

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Although it seems unlikely that CAM will become the next generation of health promotion, the future of the interface is difficult to predict. However, one thing appears certain—health promotion in the 21st century cannot afford to ignore developments in CAM. A shared focus on positive health and holistic well-being, including the spiritual dimension of health.