We all know that the popularity and importance of integrative medicine in the United States has been growing rapidly over the last 10 to 15 years.
Now a new study published in July 2009, from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, interviewed more than 23,000 adults and asked about their use of complementary treatments. Almost 40% of adults were found to be using some type of complementary medicine. In 2007 they had spent $33.9 billion on these practices. This accounted for over 11% of the public's total out-of-pocket health expenses. The last time that these numbers had been measured was in 1997 and at that time the out-of-pocket expenses were $27 billion.
Dr. Tracy Gaudet, the Executive Director of Duke Integrative Medicine which is part of the Duke University health system was quoted as saying "Whatever this amount of the population is doing is no longer a fringe. We have to figure out what they are looking for but they can't find in conventional medicine."
I think all my patients know what people are looking for in integrative medicine! We all want to care for the underlying imbalances that create chronic symptoms and chronic disease. None of us are looking for only symptomatic relief or symptomatic treatment.
Other interesting data from this study show that Americans spent $4 billion on yoga, tai chi and qigong classes. Of great note was that visits to acupuncturists increased by three fold from 1997 to 2007.
Dr. Mimi Guarneri, medical director of The Scripts Center for Integrative Medicine noted that the users are "regular people" who want more help staying well. It has been a false assumption for a long time that users of complementary treatments are "alternative types" of people.
Dr. Guarneri appropriately stated that "The good news about Western medicine is that it responds well in an acute setting — if they have a heart attack, stroke or are hit by a car. When you look at other healing traditions, prevention is the first step, treatment is the last step."
I think it's wonderful that all of America is starting to recognize the importance of these complementary modalities and their well-being care, and using it to help their health and the health of their families.
It is one of my personal goals to help educate and explain to our country the necessity and importance of using complementary modalities for all of us to stay well.