Alternative Medicine Careers Outlook
In late 1998, the U.S. government gave additional recognition to the field of alternative health care, elevating the Office of Alternative Medicine to the status of a center—the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The U.S government has also dramatically increased NCCAM’s budget since its conception, from $20 million in 1998 to more than $127.7 million for fiscal year 2006. The center focuses on conducting clinical trials in a variety of alternative approaches.
The lack of sufficient clinical data to prove the efficacy and safety of alternative approaches has long been a major criticism put forth by the medical establishment. Advocates of alternative medicine argue that health care systems that have been validated through centuries of use do not need scientific proof. In addition, they point out that hundreds of very good studies on many of the modalities already exist.
Still, carefully controlled clinical trials may provide scientific data that will help legitimize alternative approaches in the eyes of more conventional practitioners and thus help pave the way toward more cooperation between alternative and conventional practitioners.
In 2000, the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine was established to help access and regulate the methods and practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). According to a 2002 report from the commission, as many as 43 percent of the U.S. population has used some form of CAM. Medical professionals, hospitals, and other health care professionals are showing a growing interest in CAM. According to the report, “Although such prevalence of use and interest in CAM is not an indication that these practices are effective, it does suggest that those with chronic conditions and the physicians who treat them are looking for more therapeutic options than are widely available in conventional health care settings.”
Growing coverage by the insurance industry is another significant indicator that the momentum of the alternative health care movement will continue. Some major insurance companies now offer coverage for certain alternative therapies. The state of Washington requires all insurance companies to cover licensed and certified alternative health care practitioners.
The clinical trials conducted by the NCCAM and other agencies undoubtedly will have a profound impact on the areas studied. The results may help some alternative approaches and discredit others—justly or not. Alternative health care practitioners will be watching the clinical trials very carefully. The NCCAM trials and other studies will create more opportunities in research for practitioners of alternative approaches. Integration of alternative approaches into conventional medical education will continue to increase, creating more teaching opportunities for alternative practitioners.
With all of its hope, excitement, and change, alternative health care is the most rapidly growing segment of the field of health care in general. Significant recent events indicate that the alternative health care explosion will continue well into the 21st century.
Careers in Alternative Medicine:
- Art Therapists
- Ayurvedic Doctors and Practitioners
- Biofeedback Therapists
- Creative Arts Therapists
- Holistic Dentists
- Horticultural Therapists
- Massage Therapists
- Music Therapists
- Oriental Medicine Practitioners