White House Commission Report Favorable to Complementary and Alternative Medicine
A Healthnotes Newswire Opinion
March 14, 2002—The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) recently released a landmark report acknowledging the value of CAM, and recommending its incorporation into both the American healthcare system and the American culture. Specifically, the report concluded that “safe and effective CAM practices should be utilized to help achieve the Nation’s health promotion and disease prevention goals and to promote wellness throughout life.”
The Commission, which was created by executive order on March 7, 2000, was given the task of addressing issues related to research into CAM and CAM products, public access to CAM services, dissemination of reliable information on CAM, and appropriate licensing and training of CAM practitioners. Members of the Commission included individuals knowledgeable in both conventional and alternative medicine.
The Commission's report included a wide range of recommendations designed to improve the overall health of Americans. Some of the issues addressed fall into the category of general health promotion, rather than CAM per se. These include recommendations for teaching nutrition, promoting exercise, and teaching stress management in school curricula; improving the nutritional quality of school lunches and snacks; and promoting wellness and disease-prevention activities in the workplace and in various Federal programs, such as Head Start and Meals on Wheels.
Other recommendations were directly related to CAM. Specifically, the Commission urged that additional research funding be made available to determine the effectiveness of CAM approaches in the treatment of chronic diseases. In particular, Congress was asked to provide adequate funding to test products (such as nutritional supplements and herbs) that, because they can’t be patented, are unlikely to attract research funds from private sources. The Commission also recommended increasing government and private-sector support for developing and expanding CAM training programs at conventional institutions, expanding the eligibility of CAM students for loan and scholarship programs, increasing the access of all Americans to qualified CAM practitioners, and increasing coverage by insurance companies of safe and effective CAM services and products provided by qualified practitioners.
The Commission also addressed issues related to quality control for CAM products, as well as the reliability of information disseminated about CAM. It recommended improving methods used to analyze the contents of CAM products, such as dietary supplements, as well as implementing mandatory standards of quality and consistency. The report also urged Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop new laws and policies, so that the public will have access to “truthful, complete, and scientifically valid information on the benefits and appropriate uses of dietary supplements on the product label and at the point of sale.” This latter recommendation is particularly important because consumers currently do not have ready access to necessary information on nutritional supplements and herbs, such as their benefits, risks, and interactions with drugs.
Overall, this report could represent an important step toward incorporating safe and effective CAM practices into the mainstream. Whether Congress and other government agencies act on this report's recommendations depends in part on how vigorously the American public stands behind it.
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Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, testified to the White House Commission on CAM upon request in December 2001. Dr. Gaby served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. He is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994), and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). A former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, in Kenmore, WA, where he served as the Endowed Professor of Nutrition, Dr. Gaby is the Chief Medical Editor for Healthnotes, Inc.
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