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European Coalition on Homeopathic & Anthroposophic Medicinal Products

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Complementary and alternative medicine

[Extract: Future challenges for EU health policy in the framework of CAM by Dr. Ton Nicolai]

For Europe, the CAMbrella Project recently defined Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as follows: “CAM, as utilised by European citizens, represents a variety of different medical systems and therapies based on the knowledge, skills and practices derived from theories, philosophies and experiences used to maintain and improve health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, relieve or treat physical and mental illnesses. CAM therapies are mainly used outside conventional health care, but in many countries some therapies are being adopted or adapted by conventional health care”.

CAM typically includes certain characteristics, including a holistic approach that assists the person’s innate healing capacity; health care and treatment are individualised, and health is seen as a dynamic rather than a static state. The therapeutic relationship involves the patient in their own care, and self-care, patient empowerment and prevention are key elements of this type of treatment.

CAM is used by one out of two EU citizens.

Throughout the EU, citizens are seeking more natural and gentle methods of healing, and increasingly favouring the provision of CAM within existing healthcare systems.

CAM is practised by approximately 145,000 doctors dually trained in conventional medicine and a CAM discipline, and about 160,000 trained CAM practitioners, with or without statutory regulation, practising various CAM disciplines.

Professionals in the field of CAM can provide particular added value in the field of prevention. CAM modalities can be effective in health promotion, including lifestyle counselling, dietary guidance, stress reduction techniques, interventions to improve sleep quality, and use of nutritional and herbal supplements for health promotion. The full range of CAM modalities supports goals such as pain management, stress relief, disease management, and risk reduction.

The CAM model also offers financial sustainability by encouraging disease prevention via less costly interventions that potentially lead to long lasting outcomes of treatment. There is a growing evidence to show that the introduction of CAM into primary care not only improves citizens’ health but can potentially offer short and long-term savings in healthcare costs.

CAM is consistent with the priorities of the current EU Health Strategy, in particular in relation to reducing healthcare costs, promoting healthy ageing, reducing antimicrobial resistance and supporting innovative health systems. CAM practices inherently promote health literacy and healthy lifestyle habits, and are often used for the management of chronic diseases. CAM thus has a role to play in building economic prosperity by enhancing health in the work place and cutting illness-related absences.

Last updated on 22 Jan 2016