As the end of the year approaches, it is embedded in our human nature to look back and extract meaningful conclusions regarding the recent past. At the same time, we try to peer deeply into an ever-increasing uncertain future. Of course, amidst every day’s buzz, the most important thing for each and every one of us is our health. What can we do to stay healthy? How can we better treat our illnesses? When it comes to your well-being, every good doctor will recommend taking into consideration all the available options. Besides the established medical practices, complementary alternative medicine is gaining more and more ground, offering thus a new set of natural, curative possibilities.
Alternative medicine vs. biomedicine
One of the main factors that set apart alternative medicine (AM) from the mainstream biomedicine is the fact that AM also has a spiritual and mystical part integrated into it as well.
For example, Taoism highly influenced the ancient Chinese health care system.
Ayurveda, a traditional medical system of India, reflects the traditional Hindu world view.
Similarly, Tibetan physicians practice Buddhist meditation as an integral part of their medical training.
But there’s a common thing that ties together all these different, yet very similar medicinal systems. The common core is the belief that a vital force is the underlying entity behind all life and that there is unity in diversity.
While biomedicine does not necessarily reject religion or spirituality, it does not routinely integrate these aspects into diagnosis and treatment.
The current state of AM in the US
In the United States and also all around the world, the use of complementary and alternative medicine is ever increasing and has resulted in significant non-reimbursed medical or health-related consumer expenditures.
According to a 2011 survey from Consumer Reports, every year 38 million Americans receive more than 300 million AM treatments. Since most insurance plans have limited coverage for AM, patients are usually paying for them out-of-pocket.
For comparison, in Australia, as many as two-thirds of the population uses some form of alternative medicine. This can be meditation, herbal medicine, nutritional supplementation or massage.
After his first meeting with President Obama, Donald Trump declared that “Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced.” Even though Trump has outlined some of his intentions on his website, the cloud of uncertainty remains.
According to the plan, tax-free health savings accounts will replace Obamacare. These funds will be available for use by any family member and can be transferred with no other costs to all heirs. It is not clear whether or not future policies will also cover expenditures regarding alternative medicine.
The future of alternative medicine
What will be the future of alternative medicine in the US? Right now, this is a question that begs a complicated answer. In 1991, the US Congress directed the National Institutes of Health to create an Office of Unconventional Medical Practices (now called NCCAM). The government agency was not very enthusiastic about this. On the other hand, the reaction from the public was that of high expectations.
It is well worth noting that numerous mainstream doctors are advocating for a deeper union between biomedicine and AM. As Kenneth R. Pelletier, Ph.D., professor of public health at the University of Arizona School of Medicine says: “I see it as integrative medicine – the evidence-based fusion of conventional and alternative medicine.”
Instead of a conclusion
In the last years, in the US, health-related costs have been soaring through the roof in recent years. For example, the average California hospital costs more than $3,000 a day. This money comes from the pockets of patients and insurers, resulting in higher premiums the next year for employer and patients. This phenomenon is unacceptable.
Alternative medicine can prevent many of these hospitalizations, and illnesses usually clear up more quickly outside of the hospital environment.
Moreover, nano-medicine, 3D bio-printing, and medical sensors will contribute to an exciting near-future in healthcare. As Latins used to say – “Mens sana in corpore sano,” meaning –“A healthy mind in a healthy body.” With all these in mind, we can look more optimistically into the future, knowing that we will have so many options to take better care of our physical and spiritual health!