Thursday, January 7, 2010

Real health reform (Part 3 of 4): Integrative care

3) Integrative care:
  • As discussed in the earlier post on meditative medicine, we need to shift away from the division between “conventional” and “alternative” medicine. 
  • There are cost-effective alternatives to expensive medications and interventions. Andrew Weil said: 
“As long as medicine remains this costly, it’s going to sabotage any system we create. You just can’t do statin therapy and stents and angioplasties on everybody; we can’t afford that. And there are low-cost alternatives to that kind of intervention.”  
The alternatives? Diet changes. Exercise. Stress reduction. 
  • Unfortunately, these alternative approaches are often marginalized as “Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM),” when they are not complementary or alternative at all, but rather part of simple, fundamental health care. Mimi Guarneri said:
“I used to be called the ‘alternative cardiologist’ because I talked about nutrition, exercise, and stress relief. I thought, ‘Alternative to what? A bypass?’ [Nutrition, exercise, and stress relief] are not CAM, they’re not conventional, they’re basic health care, and they should be available to everybody.” 
  • We need to stop calling basic health habits “CAM” when there is plenty of evidence behind them. Not to mention the fact that they are low-cost and have few, if any, side effects. 
  • Integrative methods need to be part of medical school training in order to become part of our health system. James Gordon, MD, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, said: 
“When doctors, medical students, and residents experience these approaches themselves, then it will become part of practice.”


  1. Well said.

    Communications and trust would improve between the two camps if traditional doctors openly and candidly admitted they've been wrong in past to underemphasize the importance of exercise and a healthy diet, and if more progressive doctors openly and candidly admitted that they've been wrong in the past to suggest solutions whose efficacy is still not proven based on the evidence.

  2. PS I totally agree that calling basic health habits, such as exercising and eating healthily, CAM and therefore marginalizing them, is offensive and ludicrous.