Complementary and Integrative Medicine: The Future of Health Promotion

October 1, 2018 Joe Brady

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Benjamin Franklin

Quality health education programs have the potential to improve the health and quality of life for millions of people. In the United States, 85% of adults do not achieve the recommended amount of physical activity and 32.2% of men and 35.5% of women are considered obese. People who are obese and inactive increase their risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and certain cancers.

Complementary and integrative medicine approaches offer great promise in promoting healthy lifestyles, and research in using alternatives is well justified.

According to  C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States, “One reason such research is worth doing is that 80% of the world’s people depend on these alternative approaches as their primary medical care. For years we have attempted to export Western medicine to the developing world. The sad truth is that the people we are attempting to help simply cannot afford it. I have doubts about how much longer we can afford it ourselves. It may be possible that in the new millennium, we may be more ready to ask the peoples of the world to share their wisdom with us.”

Marc Micozzi, Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine,(Saunders Elsevier, 2006) xviii.

 Half the population is already using Complementary and Integrative Medicine

One-third of older adults and one-half of aging baby boomers currently use some form of traditional medicine. Health promotion and preventive medicine have been fundamental features of traditional Chinese medicine and other complementary medicine approaches from around the world. Modern research has documented the potential contribution of these complementary and integrative medicine practices to promote and support health literacy and empowerment in health promotion. The consequences of emphasizing high tech medicine over basic primary disease prevention, include greater morbidity and mortality and lower quality of life and ever-escalating health care costs.

More Choices for Physicians and Patients

If we are to ever get health care costs under control community-based prevention services are crucial. Complementary and integrative medicine can expand the array of choices and primary prevention approaches that can contribute to health promotion. These approaches encompass lifestyle changes, exercise, dietary guidance, stress management techniques, interventions to improve sleep quality, and the use of natural products for health promotion. Medicine in the future will need to include preventive medicine and the holistic view that is central to integrative medicine. Alternative practitioner-based research networks of integrative medicine centers are now adding to the literature on community effectiveness of integrative medicine for chronic pain and other costly health problems that do not do well with strictly pharmaceutical approaches. The ultimate goal of complementary and integrative medicine should be to make the widest array of appropriate choices available for people and physicians both.

More and Better Research is Needed

Much research already exists and much more needs to be done to test the safety and effectiveness of complementary therapies and approaches to exercise, diet, lifestyle and other primary prevention strategies of traditional medicine.

Read more from the CDC

Read more in the Oxford Journals

Complementary and alternative medicine: the next generation of health promotion?

Faith J. Hill Health Promotion International, Volume 18, Issue 3, 1 September 2003, Pages 265–272, 

Click here to read the article

Also, see  the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Volume 49, Issue 5, Supplement 3, November 2015, Pages S230-S240

AtherAliND, MPH, MHS1David L.KatzMD, MPH2

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