Alternative Health Care, Fad or Here to Stay?

Alternative health care is a term that hit the media several years ago. It was originally used to describe treatments, procedures or techniques that were not taught as part of the degree curriculum of medical schools. Some of these include chiropractic care, nutrition, naturopathy, acupuncture or homeopathy.

Alternative health has been making huge gains in public awareness and understanding. In the 1970s the term was used interchangeably with unscientific, unproven, or unsafe techniques. Fortunately that is no longer the case.

These therapies have gained huge advances in acceptance and are included in many health insurance plans today. Many fields are now regulated by state or national licensing agencies. In 2012, it is expected that 7 out of 10 people will consult with the internet about their health concerns before choosing whether to seek professional care. They will also research to diagnose their health conditions before seeking care.

Informed health care consumers make choices and vote with their wallets. In 2007, the National Institute of Health conducted a large scale survey. They asked about spending for Complimentary and Alternative medicine among Americans. The result: 38 percent of respondents said they used complimentary or alternative care that year. The NIH reported that 83 million adults spent $33.9 billion of their own money on these therapies. That translates to over 10% of non-covered health care.

The popularity of complimentary and alternative care is due in part to increased acceptance of these therapies in medical schools and medical practices. Advances in research in the some fields like clinical nutrition, exercise physiology and chiropractic care have helped make this change. A general awareness of self-care through exercise and nutrition has also helped drive this change.

Chiropractic offices are among the most popular access points to alternative therapies. These offices provide doctors trained and licensed to diagnose many health conditions and are versed in many types of alternative therapies. Chiropractic college curriculum is 4 years post graduate study. The course work includes medical diagnosis and imaging in addition to various alternative therapies such as chiropractic care, clinical nutrition and physical therapy modalities and exercise rehabilitation.

Naturopathy is another access point of professional alternative therapies. These doctors have often studied nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, and medical diagnosis. Other access points include practitioners in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Massage therapists and nutritionists.

Access to information on-line, changes in insurance coverage and scientific research have led to huge changes in the way people view and use their health care dollars. Alternative care is here to stay but it is not a new idea. Thomas Edison is credited with saying, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Nearly 100 years have passed since he said it, but it looks like he was right.

http://nccam.nih.gov/news/camstats/costs/costdatafs.htm