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Integrative Health Care: Some Considerations

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

By Joel Proctor, MS, Dipl.Ac, L.Ac.

It is obvious that the integrative health care model is the future of health care in this country.  What is not clear is how this approach will play out in the real world.  The introduction of different medical traditions in the West, where the allopathic approach has held a monopoly since the early 20th century, has led to some confusion when trying to describe what these ‘new’ traditions and approaches are.  Until recently, they have been described only in relationship to the Western scientific allopathic model, which itself has been labeled, in my opinion incorrectly, as ‘traditional medicine’.  Because of the political, economic, cultural, and intellectual control the AMA has held on health care in the West, many well-intentioned health care pioneers have only added to the confusion.  Terms such as ‘complementary’ and ‘alternative’ medicine, while valid descriptions in the milieu from which they sprang, now create some interesting problems when discussing these new integrative medical models and, more importantly, in their implementation.

This is not to say that many of these ‘new’ modalities, such as naturopathic, chiropractic, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, structural integration, and nutrition, to name a few, are not being used as ‘complementary’ and ‘alternative’ treatments.  Increasingly, many open minded and wholistic Western MDs are referring their patients for these treatments.  More health insurance plans are allowing some coverage as well, as long as results can be shown using the Western scientific paradigm.  While these are examples of how far we have come in advancing more effective health care in this country, it is also where the seeds of potential problems are germinating.

Whether health care is paid for under the present abysmally ineffective, and costly system or by more innovative and socially just means it will still be provided based on the Western scientific ‘evidence based’ double blind reproducible results model.  Even if one generously forgoes the important conclusions reached by Western quantum mechanics this model is fraught with inconsistencies and weaknesses.  Western Medicine has shown some very dramatic results using this model and is very effective in certain areas of health care and should be given deserved respect.  But within this ‘quantitative’ science lies an inherent weakness.  By not looking at the relationships within the whole, as a ‘qualitative’ scientific paradigm such as  Chinese Medicine  operates within, side effects from the ‘cure’ can be fatal at worse, or at best, need to be treated as well.  An obvious example is the use of antibiotics which has saved the lives of many, but have had many negative effects on overall health as well.  Prolonged or incorrect use of these wonder drugs not only can destroy digestive and immune systems but have a history of breeding resistant strains of ’super bugs’, some only found in hospital settings.

This is not about bashing the medical establishment, but only to set the background for this discussion of the potential problems that are facing integrative health care models.  The Western Medical establishment is catching on and catching on fast.  Already many prestigious medical schools are incorporating ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’ medicines into their curriculums.  On the surface this appears to be a very good thing for health care.  But it is still being driven by corporate considerations and authoritarian control.  It still operates within the ‘evidence based’ western scientific paradigm and ruled by linear thinking.  The need for standard protocols used in research cuts the root of many medical traditions, such as Chinese Medicine, that design treatments based on ever changing internal and external patterns, such as each person’s unique constitution.  Six people with a Western diagnosis of diabetes, for example, may receive six different point protocols, six different herbal formulas to address six different ‘patterns’ and their treatments slightly altered each visit.  This is a serious conundrum and one that will not be resolved easily.  Throw all of this into the mix of professional inferiority complexes of many  ’non-traditional’ medical practitioners, especially those involved in the politics of professional organizations, combine it with the authoritarian superiority complexes of their Western counterparts and we have some serious considerations about what these integrative health care models are going to become.

This is not about which scientific paradigm is better.  The both have their strengths and weaknesses.  Neither is this about the many different modalities each utilizes in their diagnosis and treatments, as these are only the flowers, stems, and branches of health care.  It is not even about the way they are practiced, alone or in an integrative approach.  This is about achieving mutual respect and balance.  To achieve this a fundamental shift in consciousness and an expanded awareness of what it is to be a whole human being is needed.  This gets to the root of true healing.  In the circle of life, we are all connected.  This is the intent, this is the foundation of what the Sacred Tree is all about.  My next offering for your consideration will be some of the ways Sacred Tree is creating opportunities for accomplishing true healing for individuals, families, communities, and this Mother Earth that gives and sustains life for us all.  For All Relations…..

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