The recent 72nd World Health Assembly – the May 2019 edition of WHO’s annual global health gathering in Geneva – offered unusually powerful windows into the advances of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine (TCIM) internationally. A WHO progress report detailed the expanding regulatory context for traditional medicine practice. Exemplar nations participated in a TCIM briefing session (all presentations available publicly). In parallel, the approval of a separate WHO initiative, long in development, to include Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) codes in the 11th version of WHO’s international classification of diseases (ICD-11) received major push back.
The number of acupuncturists employed in federally qualified health centers (FQHC) is no longer negligible yet still far from routine. The number who have that experience and have also served their state as members of technology review panels charged to evaluate the science behind non-pharma approaches to pain may be just one. The person doing both in what is essentially a national pilot program in the state of Oregon is Laura Ocker, LAc. I got in touch with Ocker, the past president of the Oregon Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (OAAOM, for an acupuncture practitioner’s perspective on practicing in the context of the controversial program that led national pain leader Sean Mackey, MD, PhD` to spark a national campaign to limit its expansion. While not fond of the spotlight, Ocker agreed to share some of her experience as part of this ongoing Integrator series.
Shortly after my recent post, “How the Backlash to Oregon’s Plan to Taper Opioids with Integrative Approaches Missed the Mark”, I received an e-note from national pain leader Sean Mackey, MD, PhD. The letterhead of the chief of the division of pain medicine at Stanford University and co-chair of the US HHS National Pain Strategy was the vehicle through which Mackey and 100 co-signers successfully campaigned for the Oregon Health Authority to prevent forced tapering “of certain patient populations.” Mackey wrote that he presumed we had shared interests in bettering care, yet he thought there was a harmful “negativity” in my article: “May I suggest rather than a ‘missed opportunity’ message, you could easily frame it as ‘forced opioid tapering defeated – here is what we need to do next …'”
On May 7-10, 2019, I attended the top international integrative health research conference that comes around each year. The 14th International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research drew roughly 400 “delegates” as the Brisbane, Australia hosts welcomed us. We hailed from 34 nations. The turnout to the distant location was about half that when the meeting is hosted in North America or Europe and roughly on par with a 2015 South Korean event. Yet despite or perhaps because of the size and distance new themes emerged and old ones that needed prodding re-emerged. Together these offer an impactful direction for the global integrative research community and for ISCMR, the organization of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine researchers that co-sponsors each of these event.