Despite the growing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine interventions in the United States, the topic remains controversial to some extent. One question born of this controversy is: Is alternative medicine compatible with mainstream public health? This question is vital for practitioners, consumers, and policy-makers alike (Silenzio, 2002).
Examination of this question was presented in the American Journal of Public Health (Silenzio, 2002). During the examination, journal author and researcher, Vincent Silenzio stressed the importance of increased understanding among all parties impacted by the answer to this question. In order for the question to be answered fully, with comprehensive awareness of implications, all parties must understand the history and historical implications of complementary and alternative medicine practices. They must also understand cultural implications and the extent to which these practice comprise a vital part of the public health structure available to any society. Of additional importance are the interrelationships between cultural, personal, public, and individual health (Silenzio, 2002).
In developing societies, much of the health care provided and consumed consists of indigenous practices. In some countries, the ratio of professionally trained physicians to health care consumers is one to fifty thousand while the ratio of indigenous healers to health care consumers is one to every two hundred. Meanwhile, the value placed on complementary and alternative medicine by consumers in developed countries is growing. Many developed countries, like the United States, statistically report 50% or more of the population use alternative medicine (Silenzio, 2002).
Due diligence in answering the question: Is alternative medicine compatible with mainstream public health, also involves an examination of the efficacy of such practices. This involves recognition of a healthcare system as an intertwining of three distinct lines: popular, folk, and professional. Alternative health care systems, for example, developed separately and autonomously from conventional biomedicine. Ignorance or insensitively of healthcare professionals to alternative or indigenous healthcare practices is reflective of the evolution of healthcare. Some say it may even demonstrate “Intellectual, emotional, and spiritual violence committed in the name of the very public we have sworn to protect” (Silenzio, 2002).
Silenzio, V. M. B. (2002). What Is the Role of Complementary and Alternative
Medicine in Public Health? American Journal of Public Health, 92(10), 1562–1564.