Issues in complementary and alternative medicine
Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

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Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

1.12 Conclusion to Extract 1

The biomedical model that dominated health professional–user interactions for the past 100 years or so marginalised and appeared to devalue certain aspects of the individual and personal experience of illness. However, health care provision is now more user-centred in the prevailing biopsychosocial model. Despite the diversity of health beliefs, the edifice of modern medicine is built on a dominant scientific perspective, which promotes a certain world view at the expense of other cosmologies. CAM offers a diverse array of other philosophical approaches to health and healing. This extract showed that the enterprise of health and healing is far broader than the world view encompassed by biomedicine. Cultures and societies produce profoundly different beliefs about health. Where the mainstream health care provision is insensitive towards lay understandings of health and illness, people seek out healing practices that are more congruent with their experiences, belief systems and culture. Whereas in the past this always involved folk and traditional healing, increasingly it includes the use of CAM.

Key points

  • The ways in which people understand health and illness vary considerably, lay understanding often conflicting with professional understanding of disease.

  • People may hold multiple and conflicting beliefs about health.

  • Individuals' health beliefs are not constant and fixed, but reflect their life experiences and acquisition of knowledge from a variety of sources.

  • People's health beliefs influence their health behaviours, including the decision about when and whom to consult for health advice.

  • Models of health provide understanding on the basis of different cosmologies. These models are not fixed but overlap and continuously evolve.

  • The biomedical model has gradually given way to a broader biopsychosocial understanding of health. This is reflected in both medical training and clinical practice.

  • CAM can provide ways of understanding the body that accord with and give meaning to people's lay understanding.

  • Despite a greater professed interest in the balance between people and their environment, CAM treatments may promote an individualistic analysis of health.

  • There is no single CAM philosophy. CAM therapists work in a variety of ways, some being more holistic than others, some working with philosophies that can be accommodated within a biomedical understanding of the body (e.g. osteopathy) and others that cannot (e.g. acupuncture).

  • Users of CAM are not necessarily drawn to therapists because of their particular philosophy.

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