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Health, Sports & Psychology

CAM Around The World

Updated Friday, 13th January 2006

How do attitudes and implementation of CAMs vary around the world? Our whistle-stop tour of the globe gives an insight

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There is increasing interest in CAM and many people access treatment for a growing range of conditions. The NHS is slowly incorporating more types of CAM and more integrated services are being developed.

West Coast USA
This part of the USA is leading the way in the growth of the use of CAM within the developed world. Many new therapies are initiated here, synthesising traditional approaches with New Age ideology.

South America
Curanderismo is a folk-curing practice that is widespread in Central and South America. It may be based on pre-Columbian American healing arts. The skills of the folk healer are usually passed down from generation to generation, often from mother to daughter. Typically, the healer works on three levels - the material, the spiritual and the mental. The treatment may consist of rituals, herbal remedies, potions, or counter-magic, depending on the illness.

There is a strong heritage of traditional medical practices throughout Africa. For many people, this is the only type of health care to which they have access. Training programmes and various forms of control are slowly being introduced, to ensure that the best of these practices are promoted, while ineffective or even potentially dangerous types of treatment are eliminated.

Indian sub-continent
The traditional Indian systems of medicine work alongside more recently introduced western types of medicine. There is a great emphasis on attempts to improve the standards within the Indian system, with improved education and training for practitioners. Research, based on randomised controlled trials, continues to reveal those features of the indigenous system that are effective.

Throughout this vast country, there is a synthesis between western forms of medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM targets the whole patient and the physiological functions that they believe may be put out of balance and cause disease. TCM looks at the various balances in the body, for example between yin and yang. It also focuses on the 'vital energy' or qi that they claim is found in every organ in the body.

Many newly introduced forms of complementary medicine that have developed in the west are based on traditional Japanese forms of health care. One example is shiatsu, which utilises a combination of pressure and assisted-stretching techniques. The treatment allows the recipient to relax deeply and to get in touch with their own healing power.

Mainland Europe
Although there is a growing interest in CAM, some countries control access quite strictly through the medical profession. In Germany, only qualified doctors can treat people with certain complementary therapies.

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