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Pure Blog: Why Build a "CAM Ghetto"? PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Pure Blog:  Why Build a "CAM Ghetto"?

Summary:  Colleagues have twice recently shared their views with me that for their complementary healthcare discipline to seek coalition with other complementary healthcare fields is little more than forming a "CAM ghetto." Better to spend a discipline's precious political capital angling for an advantage for that discipline in the mainstream system. To clarify my thinking, I contacted author-speaker Paul Loeb, an expert on citizen action, empowerment and social change, for his perspective. What do you think?
Send your comments to
for inclusion in a future Your Comments forum.

Many leaders of the chiropractic profession reject any affiliation with other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) fields. 

To these chiropractors, associating with
acupuncture and Oriental medicine, massage therapy and naturopathic medicine is to fall back into the mire of non-inclusion from which they have been struggling mightily to free themselves. Why burden chiropractic with baggage of these relative newcomers? We're better off fighting our battles alone.

   

CAM ghetto ...

The phrase has great power.
The metaphor fits.  They are
marginalized. The rules are
unevenly applied against them.


 
I was bluntly blasted with a similar perspective last week, this time by a leader of the naturopathic medical profession. He was explaining the reluctance of some naturopathic leaders to join the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC). This consortium of organizations is principally comprised of the councils of colleges, accrediting agencies and testing agencies of the 5 complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) disciplines (DC, ND, massage therapy, AOM and direct entry midwifery).

I asked why the naturopathic doctors might not want to participate. My colleague fired back a question: "Why join a CAM ghetto?"

CAM ghetto. The phrase has great power. The metaphor fits. The complementary and alternative healthcare disciplines are minority presences in the power-structure of US healthcare. They are
marginalized. The rules (in this case of evidence-based medicine) are unevenly applied against them. Lack of insurance coverage, exclusion from federal programs and uneven receipt of research dollars echoes the practice of "red-lining."  In short, a game of extend that metaphor on this theme could last a long time.

My colleague's question is a good one. Why would anyone willingly choose to help to create and empower such a "CAM ghetto"?

Soul of a Citizen, integrative medicine,
Author-lecturer Paul Loeb, expert on citizen action and social change
I decided to put the question to Paul Loeb, an author-educator and friend whose
specialty is citizen empowerment and social change. Making a difference. Loeb frequently provides keynote addresses to university and association audiences.  His most recent books are the best-selling Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a cynical Time and the edited collection, The Impossible Will Take a Little While which have 100,000 and 75,000 copies in print, respectively.

http://www.paulloeb.org/bio.htm

   
 
"In any situation people
have their turf and are
afraid they'll be losing
something by joining.
 

"The tendency is always
there to cut a deal
for yourself." 

- Paul Loeb


I told Loeb the two snippets above then asked him: Based on your 35 years of study and writing about social action and empowerment inside non-metaphorical ghettos - what comes to mind?

Loeb quizzed me a bit then got his bearing: "In any situation people have their turf and are afraid they'll be losing something by joining. The tendency is always there to cut a deal for yourself."

Then Loeb quickly added: "In any movement, you are stronger the more people you are associated with."

He recalled a story from a chapter in Soul of a Citizen called "Widening the Circle." All of New York City's political, business and media leadership was bent on placing a 55-story incinerator in a neighborhood in Brooklyn. In the course of a 15-year battle against it, a coalition formed among the historic antagonists in the neighborhood: Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Hasidic Jews, plus environmentalists. The group later expanded to include Poles and Italians. Concludes Loeb: "They each mobilized their constituencies.
They reached across the barriers that had traditionally divided them. The incinerator was never built."

Loeb
then reflected directly on the CAM ghetto idea: "There are two ways to judge political power (for the CAM fields). One is how much money you donate. Compared to drug companies or even MD’s most people in the CAM fields don't have as much discretionary money. That’s clear. But the second and much more important aspect is the number of people the practitioners see who can speak out. That's huge if the professions work together. Your practitioners have direct access to well over a third of the American public. So you can have a huge potential impact if the professions work together." 

Then he adds:
“If we’ve traditionally been excluded, it’s always tempting to identify with the people on the inside. And to commensurately turn our back on those who, like us, have been on the outside. But it’s a trap. Obviously the more that CAM professionals can work with traditional MDs and work to be treated equitably in terms of grant funding, insurance reimbursements, hospital access, and everything else that matters in terms of resources, that’s a good thing. But the best way to do that isn’t to try to cut your own separate deal. It’s to try and craft a unified voice in terms of what actually works best in terms of producing the best health for the people you see.” 

Loeb's thoughts echo my own beliefs. Optimally, yes, there would be no need for such an alliance, or coalition or consortium. All parties would have unrestricted access to all parts of town.

But where we are now, there may well be value in forming an "intentional ghetto" of natural healthcare interests - as long as the intention is to continuously have an impact beyond the shell.

Disclosure: I helped co-found ACCAHC and presently serve as its executive director.

A Note on "Pure Blog"   With this column I begin a regular Integrator feature in which I simply write on a theme rather than report and comment. I'd been considering doing so and decided to do it when Tom Roland, MD, my uncle, told me he enjoyed reading my straight blog pieces at Revolution Health more than my typical Integrator fare ...

Send your comments to
for inclusion in a future Your Comments forum.



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