October 2014 John Weeks Integrator Round-Up: Policy
October 7, 2014
by John Weeks, Publisher/Editor of The Integrator Blog News & Reports“Never Only Opioids” Policy Brief: The Imperative for Early Use of Non-Pharmacological, Approaches and Practitioners in Pain CareA new Policy Brief from a national campaign involving over three dozen pain-related organizations, Pain Action Alliance to Implement a National Strategy (PAINS) urges a major shift in pain treatment in the United States. “The imperative for incorporating non-pharmacologic, integrative approaches and practitioners into U.S. military medicine has been accepted and championed by former US Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker, and others,” states lead author Martha Menard, PhD, CMT. Menard chairs the Task Force on Integrative Pain Care of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC), which wrote the document. She clarified: “Our team examined the U.S. civilian population and found overwhelming evidence that a parallel imperative exists.” The eight-page policy document is entitled Never Only Opioids: The Imperative for Early Integration of Non-Pharmacological Approaches and Practitioners in the Treatment of Patients with Pain.The case in Never Only Opioids rests on two foundatio by John Weeks, Publisher/Editor of The Integrator Blog News & Reports“Never Only Opioids” Policy Brief: The Imperative for Early Use of Non-Pharmacological, Approaches and Practitioners in Pain CareA new Policy Brief from a national campaign involving over three dozen pain-related organizations, Pain Action Alliance to Implement a National Strategy (PAINS) urges a major shift in pain treatment in the United States. “The imperative for incorporating non-pharmacologic, integrative approaches and practitioners into U.S. military medicine has been accepted and championed by former US Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker, and others,” states lead author Martha Menard, PhD, CMT. Menard chairs the Task Force on Integrative Pain Care of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC), which wrote the document. She clarified: “Our team examined the U.S. civilian population and found overwhelming evidence that a parallel imperative exists.” The eight-page policy document is entitled Never Only Opioids: The Imperative for Early Integration of Non-Pharmacological Approaches and Practitioners in the Treatment of Patients with Pain.The case in Never Only Opioids rests on two foundations. One is the morbidity and mortality data that some have called an “opioid epidemic.” The second is the growing research supporting the effectiveness of multiple integrative heath practices and practitioners. Co-author and ACCAHC Task Force member Heather Tick, MD, who holds an endowed professorship in integrative pain treatment at the University of Washington School of Medicine, states that it is “long past time that pain treatment stop viewing these complementary and integrative approaches and practitioners as, if anything, a last resort. The evidence is there for a massive shift in pain treatment now.” The paper came with a two-page handout with Recommendations for various stakeholders.Comment: I was part of the team - that also included acupuncturist Arya Nielsen, PhD, Ac, chiropractor Bill Meeker, DC, MPH, and naturopathic physician Kevin Wilson, ND – that developed this brief. I was not certain that such a radical re-positioning of integrative therapies and practitioners from the basement of “when all else fails” to “early use” would go over in an initiative sponsored by an organization, Center for Practical Bioethics, that has had significant pharma funding. Menard, who sits on the PAINS Steering Committee as an ACCAHC representative, was more certain that the evidence would speak for itself. She was right. We hope this proves a good tool, and change agent. Former Army Surgeon General Schoomaker: The Two Reasons There is an “Imperative” for Integrative Health and Medicine in the Civilian Care in the U.S.In a keynote presentation at a September 29, 2014 policy day at Georgetown Conference Center to honor retiring US Senator Tom Harkin, former US Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker, MD, PhD provided a useful response to a query. In May, at the International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health, Schoomaker had used his keynote to address what he called the “imperative” for integrative medicine in the U.S. military. The question to Schoomaker: Did he believe a similar urgency existed in bringing integrative health and medicine into all of U.S. healthcare?Schoomaker, credited with a major role in the military’s proactive engagement with integrative care, answered affirmatively. He cited two reasons. First, he cited statistics in the civilian population to conclude that show that the trail of morbidity and mortality from overuse and abuse of opioids and other pain killers is similarly epidemic. Second, Schoomaker pointed to the necessity, from the perspective of national security that the United States to begin to focus on creating a culture of health and wellness. He cited the challenge the military has in filling its ranks due to disqualification of overweight and obese applicants. Schoomaker concludes that there is, in fact, an imperative that the values, practices and professionals associated with non-pharmacological integrative health and medicine be rapidly up-taken into the U.S. medical industry.Comment: It is time for a leader in the civilian world to step up and make a similar, courageous call, as Schoomaker has done, for proactive exploration now! The document noted in the article above, Never Only Opioids, provides a policy case. Who will it be? Participate! IHPC Urges Support of HR 4887, “Expanding Care for Veteran’s Act”The Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) is going to bat for veterans. In a late September mailing to members, IHPC urged them to message respective congressional representatives encouraging them to support HR 4887, "Expanding Care for Veterans Act." The bill provides for research, education and the delivery of complementary and alternative medicine services for veterans. According to the e-letter, HR 4887, spear-headed by Representative Julia Brownlee (D-CA), would mandate that the Veterans Administration (VA) conduct research while developing a plan that includes complementary and integrative approaches over a three year period to assess the "feasibility and advisability of integrating CAM with other health care services" provided by VA medical centers. The IHPC provides this link for responding. Naturopathic Doctors Score Second US Senate Endorsement of Naturopathic Medicine WeekBy US Senate Resolution 420, the United States Senate declared October 6th through 12th as Naturopathic Medicine Week. More valuable than the recognition of the week for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the promoter of the initiative is what the Senate said. The language on the unanimous vote notes simply that the resolution “recognizes the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care.” The profession is credited with providing “noninvasive, holistic treatments that support the inherent self-healing capacity of the human body and encourage self-responsibility in health care.” The lavished praise does not stop there: “Naturopathic medicine focuses on patient-centered care, the prevention of chronic illnesses, and early intervention in the treatment of chronic illnesses.” The prime sponsor of SR 420 is Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), with other endorsement from her US Senate Appropriations Committee colleague Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). In addition, this year the AANP picked up the support of their first Republican, in Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH), and also that of Independent, Angus King (ME).Comment: Who needs Madison Avenue when you have the U.S. Senate sending such messages? This is a ringing endorsement. For a small and still largely unknown profession, these comments from this “third party” should be plastered everywhere. Honoring the Immeasurable Contributions of Retiring Integrative Medicine Champion U.S. Senator Tom Harkin While policy advances for complementary and alternative medicine are famous for their grassroots consumer advocacy, this column in the Huffington Post makes the case that one individual stands out above all others for his immeasurable contributions: U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Harkin slipped language into a 1991 appropriations bill to begin the National Institutes of Health exploration of “unconventional medicine.” He authored the 1998 mandate giving it independence as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, then slowly upped its annual budget to over $125-million. Through another deft maneuver from his position as chair of the powerful US Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees, among other things, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Harkin funded the 2001 White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. Most recently, he inserted complementary and integrative practices into numerous places in the Affordable Care Act. Included is the powerful Section 2706, “Non-Discrimination in Health Care,” for which Harkin has gone to battle with HHS on that agency’s failure to respect Congressional intent. Through it all, he has used his bully pulpit to decry the limits of what he calls our “sick care” industry and to promote his vision of us making of the United States “a wellness society.”Comment: People more experienced in understanding woo-woo than I are needed to explain how it is that our grossly under-funded movement for integrative health and medicine -- and for Harkin’s “wellness society” – found a champion with such political power and appropriations clout. Imagine what the last 20 years might have been if a buddy of one of the “polarization-based medicine” (a.k.a. sciencebasedmedicine.com) bloggers had hunkered down into that role on the Appropriations Committee in 1991? I am not a big adherent to the Great Man theory of history, but Harkin is in that category for our fields his visionary promotion of system change. The good news is that his very close colleague in advancing our movement, Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), is now the U.S.’ third most powerful elected official, as chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriation Committee. And Harkin told an audience celebrating his work at a September 29, 2014 event at Georgetown University that his passion for wellness and integrative care will be among his core interests from his post-Senate involvement with the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University.