Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) by the American Public

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Public Health
Board: Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice

Activity Description

In recent years, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has become more widely used, and socially and politically accepted in the United States. Given this trend, it is important to explore and understand the scientific and policy implications of CAM use by the American public.

The IOM convened a study committee to explore scientific, policy and practice questions that arise from the significant and increasing use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies by the American public. Specifically, the study:

  1. Described the use of CAM therapies by the American public, providing a comprehensive overview, to the extent data are available, of the therapies in wide-spread use, the populations that use them, and what is known about how they are provided.
  2. Identified major scientific, policy and practice issues related to CAM research, and the translation of validated therapies into conventional practice.
  3. Developed conceptual models or frameworks to guide public and private sector decision-making as research and practice communities confront the challenges of conducting research on CAM, translating research findings into practice and addressing the distinct policy and practice barriers inherent in that translation.

In its deliberations, the committee also addressed the following topics:

  • The methodological difficulties in the conduct of rigorous research on CAM therapies and how these relate to issues in regulation and practice, with exploration of options to address the identified difficulties;
  • The shortage of highly skilled practitioners who are able to participate in scientific inquiry that meets NIH guidelines, and who have access to institutions where such research is conducted;
  • The shortage of receptive, integrated research environments and the barriers to developing multi-disciplinary teams that include CAM and conventional practitioners;
  • The availability of standardized and well-characterized materials and practices to be studied and incorporated, when appropriate, into practice;
  • Existing decision-making models used to determine whether or not to incorporate new therapies and practices into conventional medicine, including evidence thresholds;
  • Applicability of these decision-making models to CAM therapies and practices (do they form good precedents for decisions relating to regulation, accreditation, or integration of CAM therapies?);
  • Identification and analysis of successful approaches to incorporation of CAM into health professions' education;
  • Impact of current regulation/legislation on CAM research and integration. 

For more information

Previous Meetings for this Activity

View All Previous Meetings