If You Don’t Practice, Who Will?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Included in this agency is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). It is because of this agency that today the term used to define natural, holistic, or any non-conventional medical system is CAM or Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This definition is theirs and one most holistic and natural health care providers find offensive. By using this term, we are compromising, but there must be common ground in order for there to be communication. The use of the acronym CAM, allows everyone to generally understand what we are talking about. Communication is the central theme of what the Texas Health Freedom Coalition (THFC) is trying to accomplish. Communication between professionals of various CAM modalities, the licensed health care community and the public. The need for communication has hugely increased. The demand for information has gone from asking “Granny” down the street for a home remedy to Deepak Chopra pontificating through the mass media about the ancient tradition of Ayurvedic Medicine. I even received junk mail from Andrew Weil in my mailbox last week!!! The public wants alternative solutions to drugs, radiation, and surgery. They want to learn about healthy lifestyles and approaches to health care. There is only one way for the public and the medical community to get this information. CAM providers must communicate and make themselves available. If you have a certification or diploma in a field of CAM, the world needs you! “Recent trends indicate an increase in the use of CAM modalities between 1990 and 1997 from 34% to 42% of the general population. The total number of visits to CAM providers increased from 427 million to 629 million within this same time period. This number exceeds the total visits to all primary care physicians combined (386 million) in 1997.” Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, et al. Unconventional Medicine in the U.S.: Prevalence, Costs, and Patterns of Use. JAMA. 1998.
Physicians want to know what it is that we do. Young medical students want to know how they can offer these services and work together with CAM providers. Most patients do not tell their physicians that they see CAM providers because they don’t want to be ridiculed by the “man in the white coat”. We know this is often the scenario when the physician doesn’t
understand the modality the CAM provider is using. Her/his reaction is usually one of defense. This is a human reaction, particularly by someone who is highly educated and doesn’t like to admit that they don’t know everything. The most important issue at present is for the conventional medical community to understand that the training often required to become a CAM provider is as rigorous, if not more rigorous than their own. Most physicians today learn how to prescribe drugs or use machines, but don’t really understand the theory behind them. Many CAM providers are equally naive as to the actual science or natural laws behind what they do. This is where both sides speak in “apples and oranges.” There is an equally broad range of level of competence on both sides of the fence. Can all physicians perform a liver transplant and do all CAM providers understand the Simillimum or where GV20 is? This is where health freedom takes its position. If Granny down the street recommends putting a cabbage leaf in a patient’s/client’s “Depends” for bedsores, or if a psychiatrist recommends Seroquel for a psychotic patient, there is a huge gap in the need for training. Does the psychiatrist understand the physiological process or does he recommend it by brand? Why does Granny recommend the cabbage leaf? The point is that professionals join a group who have various levels of competence, but the general belief system allows each individual to proceed with the practices generally understood, whether it be with the use of substances like Ibuprofen, Ruta graveolens, Glucosamine, Agrimony, Ribes Nigrum, etc. or physical techniques like surgery, acupuncture, myofascial release, reiki, polar therapy, reflexology, esogetic colorpuncture or healing touch. Just because a professional is not perfect, does not mean that they cannot help a patient/client. No one profession can know everything! Any human being who is willing to offer services to others should be allowed to do so. There is some reason why he feels compelled to serve. Either a system has worked for him/her, his/her cultural tradition has a history of a particular method he/she wants to share, or he/she has spent an arduous amount of time studying, either formally or informally to learn a system. They all want to offer their knowledge and be of service to others. In general, most people provide service with integrity. There will always be those who don’t. It is common knowledge that those who are pursued legally, have either not done something they should have, or have lied. Regardless of their training or license, the conduct of those people should have repercussions and they may be accused of fraud, misrepresentation, or malpractice.
CAM Providers who: Represent themselves honestly and openly, who communicate with the patient who they are and what they are going to do, who keep a release form signed by the patient and keep patient records, who refer out to a more experienced provider when they have any doubt in their ability to give appropriate advice or treatment to the patient, should practice professionally according to the tenets of health freedom of choice without constraint or threat by any regulatory authority. If you are a CAM provider who has something to share, it is your professional duty to do so. Humanity needs you. The public and the conventional licensed professionals are all looking for answers. Information should be disseminated to its full potential. Please be part of the solution. THFC needs providers who will take time to talk to their local legislators and staff. Help our elected officials learn about who the CAM community is and how we need their help to better serve our communities. Documents and materials are available to facilitate your efforts. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to share your thoughts and ideas.