About the first thing one is taught in medical research is that there are hierarchies of evidence and that the “RCT” (randomized controlled trial) sits on the Iron Throne. What the integrative user of multimodal, individually-tailored approaches immediately feels is estrangement and resentment at rules that seem form-fit for pharma. Can integrative even get an audience in such a court? Now the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) and the True Health Initiative led by Yale public health, integrative, and lifestyle medicine leader David Katz, MD, MPH have published a model that seeks to take the RCT’s down a notch. It’s a diversity play. They recommend a “systematically weighted approach” involving multiple research models that “(increase) the weight and thereby validity of evidence specially applied to lifestyle interventions.” I reached Katz for an interview in which he spoke to the model’s relationships to integrative whole system research models and of the “tyranny of the RCT”. He shares intriguing political, strategic and tactical dimensions to lifestyle medicine’s Hierarchies of Evidence Applied to Lifestyle Medicine (HEALM).
The idea that “the first is the last and the last the first” was a value in my liberal Protestant upbringing. It likely had some noblesse oblige in it too. The concept can be challenged as an entrapping promise that good will come of waiting. Regardless, in some the call to work with the least-cared-for becomes a guiding mission. Self-preservation of the integrative field may be another motivator of such a mission. A past head of the NIH agency that researches integrative practices has challenged the main body of clinical research as un-generalizable due to the research being on upper income, well-educated, white, female patients. For a multitude of reasons, Integrative Medicine for the Underserved (IM4US) has emerged as the leading edge of the movement for integrative health.
I sometimes refer to my 1983-1993 years with the re-emergence of the naturopathic profession – amidst the broader social-medical movement that birthed integrative health – as my boot-camp. Given the decade duration of the commitment, it was more of an extended Marine Corp stint. The work was hard, ground won celebrated, compensation scarce, friendships fierce, and mission central. The pole star was the naturopathic profession’s commitment to “treat disease by restoring health.” The constellations that guided the voyage were a set of principles and something educators Jared Zeff, ND and Pamela Snider, ND would articulate as the “naturopathic therapeutic order.” So when the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) recently posted an updated version of the profession’s therapeutic order, I thought it a good time to re-visit the engine room of that field’s transformational work.
The George family name has been linked symbiotically to the growth of integrative health and medicine in the United States for 20 years. When a group of philanthropists met with a set of integrative academics at the Miraval Resort in 1999 and then again in 2001 in what would become the immensely influential Bravewell Collaborative, Penny and Bill George had their hands on the wheel. At Allina Health inpatient-outpatient integrative health program in their home city of Minneapolis they intentionally spawned methods and data that would guide others through $30-million pouring on the coal. The action of the Georges and the George Family Foundation intentionally reverberated nationally. Where they choose to invest is always of interest and their strategy as a family foundation has caught the attention of the national philanthropic community.