Why Americans Should Embrace Alternative Medicine

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Why Americans Should Embrace Alternative Medicine (Audience: American physicians, patients, legislators, and insurers who are wary of alternative medicine and its growing popularity) As complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) grows more popular with the American public, the question arises whether we should consolidate aspects of unorthodox medicine with standard care. Many, such as Dr. Andrew Weil, swear by CAM’s effectiveness and urge for a more patient-centered approach to care (Relman). While CAM has no shortage of critics, a growing body of research is indicating the effectiveness of many CAM therapies in treating a variety of conditions. Patients, physicians, and researchers sometimes find that CAM therapies are more practical or appropriate for treating a condition than conventional treatment. Low-risk CAM therapies should be more thoroughly researched, selectively integrated with conventional medicine, and more widely accepted by physicians, insurers, legislators, and patients. Alternative medicine is sometimes defined as anything outside of mainstream medical practice and complementary medicine as a combination of alternative and mainstream approaches. Although names such as “alternative” and “nonconventional” would seem to suggest that CAM is somewhat uncommon, the World Health Organization estimates that traditional (i.e. folk) medicine accounts for 65 to 80 percent of the world’s health care services; Marzullo 2 likewise, even two decades ago American patients visited CAM practitioners more frequently than they visited conventional primary-care physicians (Jonas). Additionally many practices once considered alternative are now widely accepted by conventional medicine, such as the “radical” practice of hand washing after delivering babies as a method of preventing puerperal fever (“Dr. Semmelweis’ Biography”). This essay will

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