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

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

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.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus