Integrative Care
Policy News

EDITORIAL: Thank You for NCCAM, Mr President!

6 September, 2013 by Torkel Falkenberg

Torkel_Falkenberg_2898During the recent state visit of US President Barack Obama to Sweden, there was an almost hour-long press conference during which Obama and Sweden´s PM Fredrik Reinfeldt affirmed their debt of gratitude to each other´s countries in various respects. At I C (Integrative Care Science Center), we view the US as a role model in terms of concerted, long-term and large-scale efforts in the field of complementary, alternative and integrative care/medicine, writes Torkel Falkenberg, Head of I C in an editorial.

As I write these words, US President Barack Obama is still in Sweden, and US army choppers are hovering over Stockholm. The positive aftermath after the inauguration speech of the first Black American President has not quite survived Obama´s first year as President, a period the media have described as largely a disappointment. We don´t quite agree with that assessment at I C. We think that the healthcare reforms Obama has implemented have radically changed the American health care environment.

At the press conference, during the state visit of Obama to Sweden, both he and Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt emphasized how much their respective countries had learned and could learn from each other. A lot could also be said about the opposite, phenomena where the US is perhaps not such a great role model, and this of course goes for Sweden as well.

However, we would like to focus on another area, where the US is at the forefront of positive developments – the concerted, long-term and large-scale efforts to prioritize complementary, alternative and integrative care/medicine, most clearly visible through the activities of NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which we have referred to in several articles.

By the way, about the army, did you know that sometimes, wounded soldiers on their way back from the Middle East are offered acupuncture as supportive pain relief? During the past year, the American news channel CNN has several times covered integrative care as part of future health care in the USA, which we have also talked about on the I C homepage. Dr Wayne Jonas, Head of the Samueli Institute, has testified in front of the US senate about the advantages of integrative care, but also about the importance of robust and wide-ranging research as a foundation for informed decision-making.

Around the same time, the Swedish Skeptics Association VoF hosts the 15th European Skeptics Congress in Stockholm, focusing on – among other topics – alternative medicine, but exclusively from a negative point of view. Please feel free to read our reports from the congress.

I recently participated in a summit meeting in Hong Kong as an advisor to the WHO upcoming global strategy for complementary and alternative medicine. The conclusions and recommendations from these deliberations are a far cry from the narrow approach of VoF and much more in tune with the position of I C on these issues.

Why? For a very straightforward reason: billions of people use CAM, integrating traditional, complementary and alternative approaches and treatments with conventional allopathic medicine. We believe that this kind of integrations is best carried out in an informed way, and that communication, training, research and collaboration are the promising paths of the future, not uninformed prohibitions and over-regulation.

Our own research at I C is started to show results, some of which we have reported on at several international medical conferences. Preliminary results of our analyses of hospital data as well as data from high-quality Swedish drug, sick-leave and mortality registries (i.a., in collaboration with Tieto and the National Board of Health and Welfare) show e.g., that patients referred for chronic pain or stress and offered anthroposophic care, tend to consume less drugs and make less recurring visits to health care facilities after treatment compared to matched controls in regular health care.

Upcoming research projects will study how these preliminary positive results might be explained, and if it is possible to link complex, patient-centered healthcare interventions containing elements of expressive art therapy and culture with an increased stability of our DNA. This kind of association has recently been indicated by Nobel Prize winner Elisabeth Blackburn with the discoveries around the so called telomeres.

We now intend to increase our efforts to reach out to individuals and organisations in Swedish and international health care as well as to other interested parties, with research and policy news, media analyses and innovative initiatives. We are open towards both positive and negative results, as long as they pass our scrutiny!

Keep in touch via our newsletter and participate in the discussion on our homepage around the future of health and health care!

Torkel Falkenberg, Director of I C

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