The Need for a Deeper Notion of Holism in Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Received Date: January 08, 2020; Published Date:February 16, 2021
I am writing this opinion piece from my perspective as a critical health and ecological anthropologist who has grappled since around 1980 with various CAM systems, particularly osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, Chinese medicine, in the US, UK, and Australia, and more recently since 2005 with anthropogenic climate change. Both CAM and critical health anthropology are committed to the notion of holistic health and perhaps even planetary health, albeit in different ways. In reality, CAM is an amorphous category created by progressive biomedical physicians responding to the growing popularity of a wide array of alternative or heterodox health medical systems which found common cause under the umbrella of the holistic health movement in the 1970s . Integrative medicine also arose as a biomedical construction to supposedly blend the best elements of biomedicine and CAM and also adopted the notion of holism, but some would argue to co-opt various CAM systems [2,3]. What is desperately needed is an examination of how the various CAM systems define holistic health and health care. Nevertheless, my sense in having examined various CAM systems and medical pluralism for four decades is that CAM practitioners tend to view holism in terms of making mind-body-spirit connections, but often tend to either neglect or downplay the role of political, economic, and social structural, and environmental factors in disease etiology. Needless to say, there are exceptions to his observations. For example, the School of Natural and Complementary Medicine at Southern Cross University in Australia developed a Basic Model of (W)holistic Medicine in 1999 which recognises six elements in whole-person care: (1) physical, (2) mental, (3), spiritual, (4) family, (5) community, and (6) environment .