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Your Comments: Rossman, Miles, Campbell, Barkley on the Attacks on NCCAM and the Centers's Role PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Your Comments: Rossman, Miles, Campbell, Barkley on the Attacks on NCCAM and the Centers's Role

Summary: The series of articles on the challenges to the legitimacy of the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Integrator poll stimulated these responses. One wonders if NCCAM is critical for a consumer-driven movement. Two focus on what they feel is a needed shift for NCCAM toward a less reductive agenda. A fourth wonders if the attacks on NCCAM are not perhaps part of an organized campaign.

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#1 Mind-body leader Rossman: NCCAM not critical to consumer-driven movement, but deserving applause

Martin Rossman, MD
Martin Rossman
, MD is pioneering in making the mindbody link in clinical behavior. He is founder of The Healing Mind, a significant mind-body resource. He comments on the "illusion of CAM" - since most CAM therapies pre-exist modern medicine. He writes:
"Modern medicine, the newest and youngest branch of medicine, is vital and technologically innovative, aggressive, and like most youthful lifeforms, has shown little respect for its elders until recently."
Rossman then positions NCCAM's development as part of an effort to reclaim old therapies:
"Since the discovery of antibiotics, steroids, and the first useful anti-psychotics in the 1940's, our culture, with the help of trillions of dollars of marketing from pharmaceutical companies, has been mesmerized by the idea that simple cures for complex illnesses were right around the corner. Unfortunately, this promise has not been fulfilled. As people see that pharmaceuticals do not solve all health problems, and  become more aware of its dangers, we  are remembering approaches that have supported health and healing for millennia."

"Because the 'hidden mainstream' uncovered by David Eisenberg's seminal study in the early 90's was already there, and because this is a social movement not really dependent on scientific proof, I do not think that NCCAM's efforts are critical to the continuing unfolding of 'CAM', but the kind of ability and aegis that comes with an NIH/NCCAM is unique and helpful.

"I applaud the leadership of NCCAM for their work. NCCAM is trying to scientifically assess the utility of these approaches, a difficult, complex, and highly useful enterprise that is helping the field to gain institutional credibility and that will improve both our understanding of and access to the healing methods that pass muster."

Voice #2: Policy leader Campbell: "Smells of an organized attack ..." 

Candace Campbell
Candace Campbell
, a long-time DC policy leader for integrated health care
"The question is,
how long do
advocates wait
before launching
a counter attack?"

 -- Campbell

and part of the Federal Policy Task Force of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium. Campbell was last heard here  in a comment to the Integrator on hospitalization.
"This smells of an orchestrated p.r. campaign. So-called journalists don't all just suddenly decide to run similar stories; they are being fed. The question is, who is bankrolling the attack?
"The second question is, how long do CAM and NCCAM advocates wait before launching a counter attack? In p.r. and in politics, unanswered lies become accepted truth. If we aren't prepared to respond, the demise of NCCAM will be a foregone conclusion."

Voice #3:  Value of NCCAM Requires a Focus on Comprehensive Systems

Richard Miles, PhD
Richard Miles, PhD
has been an activist with the Institute of Noetic Sciences who is now focusing on
the "development of a forum / blog / publishing project to explore how people find meaning and purpose in their lives. My interest is in the deeper question of how people perceive the issue of a "meaningful" life and what they value in that regard." He can be contacted
"The question about the value of the role of the NIH CAM group depends on how 'integration' is defined.  Most of the material I see is based on the notion that 'alternatives' will eventually, or must be, validated in the objective science, double blind paradigm of current conventional medicine. (I have seen) much of the education for alternative medicine in California significantly revised from original principles that brought the practices into the healing world to fit these practices into the Western diagnosis and treatment protocols based on bell curve statistical models. 

"Since the integrity and validity of Eastern practices especially is based in systemic function models rather than disease models, I'm not sure how the Western research models will illustrate much about effectiveness.  If integration implies actual recognition of other more comprehensive world views beyond reductionist materialism, then that could be most interesting. I doubt the NIH is likely to go there."

Voice #4: U Virginia Writer Wonders if NCCAM's Reduction Contributes to Negative Outcomes

Geoff Barkley, PhD
Geoff Barkley, PhD values NCCAM but wonders if it is not creating negative outcomes by not testing whole approaches. He describes how this could happen with a whole-person approach to Type 2 diabetes versus one that just looks at yoga. Barkley works at the University of Virginia Medical Center. His research interests are health promotion and disease prevention. He is currently writing health promotion grants for the School of Medicine. With the Integral Yoga Health Center, he is developing lifestyle intervention programs.


"The NCCAM is essential to integrated health care. However there may be a need for a paradigm shift to negate some of the criticism of NCCAM and to offer a true alternative to traditional medical treatment ... While the NCCAM does its fair share of this linear, reductionist research, I question its suitability for complementary and alternative medicine.
"In reality, yoga
could likely be
a valuable part
of alternative
prevention and
treatment of
Type 2 diabetes.

"But it would be
the total lifestyle
change that would
significant effects."

- Barkley

"For example, the US spends about $130 billion annually on diabetic care, 95% of which is completely preventable (Type 2). A typical reductionistic clinical enquiry might explore the effects of yoga on type 2 diabetes. Not surprisingly the results would suggest that yoga has no effect of diabetes (I can predict that right now!). Why can this be determined before any clinical trials? Because unless study participants also make wholistic changes in their lifestyle, the benefits of yoga can easily be undone by other unhealthy habits and environments. In reality, yoga could likely be a valuable part of alternative prevention and treatment of Type 2 diabetes, but it would be the total lifestyle change that would demonstrate statistically significant effects. Alternative health care is subtler and gentler than the sledgehammer approach of chemicals and surgery, yet at the same time can be incredibly powerful.

"I think the NCCAM is consistently falling into this reductionist approach, and therefore some of the criticism leveled against it (that the various herbs and other treatments are ineffective) is justified.

"Certainly there are forces in society and medicine that would love to kill the NCCAM ... Yet at the same time the health of the nation deteriorates, and hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on preventable illnesses. Alternative medicine needs to emphasize how the nation can heal itself and move away from (focusing on) the many conditions that are creating illness in the majority of its population."

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