Science-Based Medicine » NCCAM on “integrative medicine”: What’s in a word?
*Mexikaresistance.com Note: Well informed decisions regarding our health is a must! Quackery such as reiki, acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic are not "traditional" medicine!I don’t know how I’ve missed this, given that it’s been in existence now for a month and a half, but I have. Regular readers (and even fairly recent readers, given that I write about this topic relatively frequently) know that I’m not a big fan of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). (Come to think of it, neither is anyone else writing for this blog.) Just search this blog for “NCCAM” if you don’t believe me. I’ve explained the reasons many times, but the CliffsNotes version is that NCCAM is an enormous waste of taxpayer money, dedicated as it is to the study of modalities that are at best highly implausible and at worst break well-established laws of physics (i.e., “energy healing”). I do concede that, since the latest NCCAM director (Dr. Josephine Briggs) took over, there has been a noticeable attempt to bring more scientific rigor to NCCAM, and to some extent Dr. Briggs has succeeded. At the very least she is a legitimate scientist with an impressive pre-NCCAM track record, and I do fear who will succeed her when she moves on or retires given that there is enormous pressure from the CAM community to appoint one of their own as director.
Unfortunately, as rigorous a scientist as Dr. Briggs was in her former life, since coming to NCCAM she has gradually been assimilated into the culture of the place. Indeed, although it is good that NCCAM has backed away from studying woo like homeopathy and distance healing, the co-optation of science-based modalities such as exercise, diet, and natural products pharmacology has continued apace. Worse, the recently released five year strategic plan for NCCAM admitted that the science funded by NCCAM in the past was crap and, in essence, promised to do some real science for a change. That’s why on occasion I’ve jokingly said that we should take off and nuke NCCAM from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. On the other hand, no doubt someone would think I seriously mean that we should nuke NCCAM. Of course, I’d never advocate that! NCCAM is located right smack dab in the middle of the NIH campus. The collateral damage would be unacceptable.
I keed. I keed. I’m not kidding, though, when I echo the questioning of why NCCAM still exists.
What’s in a word?
But back to the new initiative by NCCAM that I started out the post with. I’m referring to the new NCCAM researchblog. Dr. Briggs welcomes readers to the blog in the first post:
Like all of the NIH, our mission is to conduct the highest quality biomedical research to improve the health of the Nation. NCCAM’s special charge is to bring rigorous science to the broad array of health practices that have arisen from outside of mainstream medicine. This covers a lot of tough territory! Not surprisingly the conversation about complementary and alternative health practices has often become polarized, with competing views about what makes good sense. I hope to use this blog as a place for a conversation about these challenges.
Sounds like a plan! It’s also one reason why I encourage SBM readers to take part in that conversation, both here and on the NCCAM blog (although you should note that the comments on the NCCAM blog are moderated). I also thank Dr. Briggs for providing me with additional blogging material. In particular, I’d like to join the discussion started in the very first substantive post after her welcome. It’s about the word, “integrative,” which Dr. Briggs discusses in her second blog post, “Integrative” — What Is in a Word? It’s a very good question, although probably not in the way that Dr. Briggs intended it. What is in the word “integrative”? I’ve discussed the use of this word many times before, in particular how “integrative medicine” is a brand rather than a specialty, but before we get to my blather, let’s take a look at Dr. Briggs’ blather. Fair’s fair, after all.
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