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Whether you’re interested in acupuncture, Qi Gong, massage, or yoga, you’ve probably noticed that holistic health care is a growing field.

More consumers in the U.S. are seeking access to holistic health care options every day.

In fact, a 2008 survey from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that 38% of adults are already using some form of alternative or contemporary medicine.

But in spite of this trend, some institutions limit the public’s access to alternative health options in favor of conventional medical treatments.

Conventional medicine – also referred to as allopathic, Western, or traditional medicine – is the mainstream medical use of pharmacological or physical interventions to treat or suppress diseases and conditions.

People are interested in exploring their options outside of the box of conventional pharmaceutical medicine, and like all consumers they want access to a variety of options.

Consumers want more access to alternative health care options

While many users of complementary health practices can be identified as more highly educated and working on dealing with particular health struggles, their personal reasons for using alternative medical options are various.

Research does show, however, that people who use alternative health care methods do so not because of a dissatisfaction with the outcomes of conventional medicine, but because holistic health practices align more closely with their personal beliefs and values.

Limited access to alternative health care options

Conventional medicine is evidence-based by design. This means two things: first, all treatments have to be thoroughly researched and vetted before they are put into widespread use on patients. This is both a protective measure for patients to be sure no harm is done to them with the new treatment, as well as a protection for doctors and healthcare institutions against legal action should a patient have a negative outcome from an untested treatment.

But there is an unintended negative consequence of the evidence-based nature of conventional medicine. It automatically alienates complementary treatments from use if there have not been randomized controlled trials of them. While anecdotal or historical support for some holistic treatments does exist, doctors hands are unable to recommend such treatments to patients on the record when documented research does not support its efficacy.

This leads to regulations and recommendations from organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) that effectively limit access to holistic health care practices. The AMA is the oldest and largest advocacy group representing american physicians.

The AMA has admitted in the past that conventional medicine’s pharmaceutical model is not well-suited to researching – and ultimately, welcoming – complementary medical approaches, particularly because the current research model requires comparing identical treatments to one another, and most complementary approaches are highly individualized to the patient instead of identical.

Integrating holistic health care with conventional health care

The logical resolution of this crisis for the patient seeking more alternative health care options is something referred to as “integral healthcare,” that is, a system in which complementary and alternative health care is not only encouraged but actually integrated with conventional medicine, giving patients the best of both methods and the option to pick and choose what works best for their own body.

Better-informed health care providers will lead to improved counselling for patients, which should include both holistic options as well as the standard conventional approaches.

This ultimately results in the empowerment of the individual to participate in and take responsibility for his or her own health, which we can probably all agree is a very healthy thing.

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