The evolution of integrative medicine

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Practitioners and leaders need to remain engaged, take action, and work together to move the integrative healthcare industry forward, said John Weeks, editor-in-chief of The Integrator Blog, at the 2020 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in New York City.

Vaclav Havel, the Czech poet and revolutionary political leader, has famously argued that “hope is not the same as optimism” to explain how people can be activists despite compelling evidence of negative trends. Havel’s perspective has animated the Weeks’ work in his 37 years in the field of integrative health and medicine.

According to Weeks, there are five eras in the integrative healthcare field’s evolution:  

  • In the 1960s, counterculture and the birth of many cultural change movements, including globalism, women’s rights, and nutrition, which later became embedded in the integrative movement.
  • In the 1970s and 1980s, practitioner organizational efforts and advancing in silos, including the organization and development of single-profession associations. The patient-centered care movement was founded in 1979, Weeks said.
  • In the 1990s, what Weeks calls “non-integrated integration,” including development of standalone health system-sponsored integrative medicine clinics and insurance coverage for complementary and alternative medicine serves but not in the core benefits. The integrative medicine concept was named in 1995, according to Weeks.
  • At the turn of the century, interprofessional and multi-organizational collaborative engagements, including the development of interdisciplinary organizations and academic medical centers.
  • In the present, remarkable signs of convergence, including integrative guidelines and policies by federal government and non-governmental professional organizations.

Expanding interest among change agents inside the mainstream medical industry in value-based care, health and wellbeing, patient-centered care, non-pharmacologic approaches, and whole health models are creating new opportunities for transformative influence, Weeks said.