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.
In the United States, the complementary and integrative medicine dialogue about “traditional medicine” typically looks to Asia. The West-meets-East orientation respects the power and influence of Chinese and Indian traditions. Yet in doing so, both local indigenous practices and the roles of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine (TCIM) in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean are mostly overlooked. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recently created a partial remedy for this hemispheric forgetfulness. A two-year collaborative process with representatives of over 20 nations has created a powerful network and opened access to a nation-by-nation bounty of practices, papers, research, and regulations.
I recently gave a commencement talk at Northwestern Health Sciences University, the day before Episode One of the last season of Game of Thrones. I chose to inject the sacredness of that day by referencing that other world by presenting the landscape of health and medicine that the graduates were entering as a jockeying between three Houses. In power on the Iron Throne: the House of Volume/Industry. The other two Houses are each insurgencies: the House of Integrative Health and the House of Value-Based Medicine. Can this life-and-death game play out favorably with an alliance between the two insurgencies in a field of health creation?
From the perspective of research contributions from academic institutions in integrative health, the 7 multidisciplinary universities have been key important contributors. These institutions, with one exception, are products of the last 20 years of advance of complementary, integrative and non-pharmacologic approaches in US health care. Each began as a professional school for chiropractic doctors, naturopathic doctors or acupuncturists then chose to expand its offerings for bird-of-a-feather programs, morphing into universities of integrative, natural health sciences. Part 1 of this series, “The Future of Integrative Health – Interviews with Presidents of 7 Multidisciplinary Universities”, examined the cornucopia of their present offerings. Part 2 offers an examination of the current place of research in these integrative health universities as the nation begins to call on their practices and practitioners in developing a new chronic pain strategy.