In late September, the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) sent out a notice to its list to celebrate the 80th birthday of perhaps its most honored male elder, Bill Manahan, MD. Manahan’s story dates back to a founding membership meeting of a predecessor to the AIHM, the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), 40 years ago. One of Manahan’s most powerful areas of impact is an AIHM priority: sewing interprofessional respect. He’s worked to pry open the MD guild – which proved necessary even in the MDs’ “holistic” form. Manahan has been a mentor to countless practitioners and other functionaries in the holistic health and integrative medicine movement, including me. I thought his birthday was a good excuse to re-connect and explore a couple pieces of his rich history in the field – specifically the inter-professional work and the remarkable Minnesota group he has managed for 40 years.
In a recent conference organized out of Prague and moved online, a presenter from the United Kingdom shared a list of concerns that seemed to go on forever of all that is frightening people these days. Foremost on his list were Covid19, what seem to many like authoritarian governmental measures to control its spread, uncertainty about the economy, and the questionable competence of world leaders in the face of a mounting global crisis. In the United States, these are compounded by unrest over police brutality against Black people forcing many to re-examine the legacy of 400 years of what historians call our “peculiar institution” of slavery. Author and clinician James Lake MD is an integrative psychiatrist who has witnessed the effects of this “perfect storm” close up. For Psychiatry Times, Lake authored a column on what he calls A Mental Health Pandemic: The Second Wave of COVID-19. He urged a re-think of typical mental health responses to include integrative solutions in his “Call for a National Strategy.” I reached Lake to explore what has steered his vision to make such dire predictions, and to explore how integrative methods might best figure into solutions.
News feeds for the natural products and integrative health practitioner fields have in recent weeks included a drumbeat of alerts on actions of the Food and Trade Commission (FTC) on what the agency considers inappropriate claims relative to COVID-19. A major natural health organization blasted the FTC’s efforts as practitioner gagging and censorship and is mounting a campaign to stop the activity. Others in these fields point to bullseyes some practitioners and companies have painted on their foreheads via gross over claims (“this mushroom will cure your COVID”) that laser-guide FTC’s actions. At a sober center amidst a tangle of issues – state/federal jurisdiction, free speech, provider-patient relationship, and the peculiar institution of in-office sales of natural products – sit Laura Farr and Rob Kachko, ND. They are the executive director and president, respectively, of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). Among the multiple questions is whether naturopathic doctors and others in integrative medicine are “canaries in the coal mine” of a new, potentially widening push by the FTC and other federal and state agencies into the regulation of integrative and functional medicine practitioner offices.
On May 4, 2020, the Africa office of the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement on COVID-19 deeply at odds with policies in Europe and North America. Of the hundreds of millions of dollars with which governments and foundations are spending on research, virtually nothing is directed toward potential traditional, complementary and integrative contributions. Media coverage of the widespread interest in such approaches, when it occurs, focuses on extremes. The Wall Street Journal led with cow dung, garlic and prayer and Nature with “cow urine, bleach and cocaine” together with the broadly dismissive “pseudoscience” and “bunk”. Scores upon scores of in vitro and other trials showing antiviral activity of herbs are dismissed. In contradistinction, WHO’s statement models calmness and reason. The agency calls for research while warning about over-claims. Should WHO’s integrative, inclusive statement be actively endorsed by natural health and integrative organizations?