The Mainstreaming of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Studies in Social Context

The Mainstreaming of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Studies in Social Context

The Mainstreaming of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Studies in Social Context

The Mainstreaming of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Studies in Social Context

Synopsis

The Mainstreaming of Complementary and Alternative Medicine allows a complex and informative picture to emerge of the different social forces at play in the integration of CAM with orthodox medicine.

Excerpt

Philip Tovey, Gary Easthope and Jon Adams

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is now a major part of the healthcare system in all advanced societies. It is also a common part of discourse in medicine and healthcare. This growth of interest has only partially been matched by academic study of it. Indeed, over recent years there has been an increasing recognition that CAM is essentially under-researched (House of Lords 2000). However, with this recognition has come an increasing concentration on a particular form of research-that geared towards the production of an evidence base and/or an immediate relevance to policy and practice.

These research priorities are reflected in much of the work that is published on CAM. In both standard medical journals and in CAM specific publications the emphasis is squarely on the problems of efficacy and of issues to do with practice, most recently integrative practice. Most books written in the field follow this pattern, being either concerned with the demonstrable value of individual therapies (Ernst et al. 2001) or being written as 'how to' guides geared towards practitioners (see, for example, Vickers 1993; Downey 1997; Tanvir 2001).

However, there is a different research agenda and a further set of writings on the subject-those that can be loosely grouped together as constituting a sociology of CAM. Here the emphases are rather different. While many of the topics may seem familiar from the policy driven agenda-regulation, the evidence base, use of CAM by general practitioners (GPs), nurses and others-they are treated in a very different way. Assumptions are challenged; motives and strategies are explored. CAM is first and foremost examined as a topic worthy of study in its own right, as a historically specific social product. Phenomena are studied in their social context. It is this sociological rather than policy-driven starting point that underpins this book. While the research covered herein may provide insights of practical benefits, that is not usually its fundamental purpose.

Central to this more in-depth sociological approach is the recognition that to merely seek to quantify effect, or to establish models of appropriate practice in tightly defined situations, is to only scratch the surface of the . . .

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