What’s in a name? Plenty, it would seem!

In December, 2014, the United States Congress rechristened the erstwhile National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Why? The answer seems to be given on the NCCIH website as explained below:

People often use terms such as “complementary”, “alternative” and “integrative” medicine interchangeably. However, these terms refer to different concepts.

  • Complementary medicine refers to an unconventional or non-mainstream approach used together with conventional medicine
  • Alternative medicine refers to an unconventional or non-mainstream approach used instead of conventional medicine

Integrative medicine, on the other hand, builds upon a collaborative and inclusive approach to healthcare, with the following key premises:

  1. It is holistic, in the sense that it considers the individual’s body, mind and spirit complex in disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment
  2. It is person-centric, in the sense that it allows room for the individual’s values, experiences and preferences
  3. It goes beyond the biomedical aspect and considers the individual’s mental, emotional, spiritual, social and community aspects
  4. It aims to build a healing relationship between the doctor and the patient
  5. It places tremendous emphasis on evidence covering research, the doctor’s individual experience and the experience of his / her peers and ecosystem

Last, but not the least, Integrative Medicine aims to achieve healing, health and happiness by adopting the least intense and invasive approaches to the extent possible, and moving to more intense and / or invasive approaches only if needed.