The Science Summit Debuts at AANP Show

NPRI, AANP, and AANMC to cohost science and policy meeting

By Carlo Calabrese, ND, MPH

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The first naturopathic Science Summit focusing on health policy will be held on August 16, the day before the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Annual Convention (AANP) at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. The Science Summit will bring together naturopathic clinicians, researchers, and leaders of academic and professional associations, as well as industry, to address the profession's impact on health policy and policy-makers—public and corporate—and the role research plays in supporting policy-changing efforts. Ian Coulter, PhD, senior health policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, will provide the keynote and participate in discussions.

During the day-long event, we will explore how the AANP mission, naturopathic research, and evidence-informed health policy can be aligned for healthier patients, a more effective healthcare system, and a flourishing profession. Most importantly, we will attempt to define directions that will provide the most important data for 1) regulation for patient access and safety, 2) public and private health program inclusion, and 3) practice improvement. The importance of the Science Summit to all the whole profession calls for its broad sponsorship by the AANP, the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, and the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI).

Naturopathic physicians are maturing as a profession. Their voices carry weight well beyond their numbers in complementary and alternative disciplines and research, as well as in public media. The profession is more ready than ever to reveal patient results in a way that can impact government and corporate policy, whether for licensing in additional states and provinces, greater access under public and private insurance plans, or simply greater intellectual authority in the control of its own growth and practice development. A cadre of scientists and health researchers within the profession have developed the skills and infrastructure to respond to research and assessment needs. The development of a health policy center at Bastyr University concomitant to its initiation of web-based data collection and outcomes systems is reflective of both understanding and capacity for sophisticated work. The series of studies of whole-practice naturopathic care from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, including cost assessment, in the last few years are the progenitors of the kinds of studies that should be supported.

The policy environment is also ready to be influenced by the real-world results of naturopathic physicians, making careful and conscious professional activity in outcomes and cost assessment more opportune than ever. The health crisis has every federal and state agency seeking answers to restraining costs while responding to epidemics of chronic disease and an aging population. Health reform is bringing with it mandates for reporting as a condition of participation.

Naturopaths, if they wish to be included in an integrated-healthcare system, would be wise to take an active role and contribute to the framework of data that will be common in the near future. Initiatives are arising for naturopathic doctors to be included in health information exchanges. Again, the voices of naturopaths can be significant in influencing policy, as they have been in contributing to the new strategic plan of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in its renewed focus on discipline-specific research. This is an essential development for the study of naturopathic medicine per se, rather than its components. The primary-care provider (PCP) shortage also favors the potential of naturopaths, as they are the licensed complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) professionals who may be the readiest for integration as PCPs. Technological change—with practice and patient-specific data collection abilities in office with electronic health records (EHR) and via the Internet—is stimulating these initiatives. Adoption of EHRs among naturopaths is nearly keeping pace with that in independent conventional practice, and the academic clinics are making good progress on implementation.

Join us to help create the firmest foundations for the future.

The collaborations resulting in the Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda 2002–2005 and the Naturopathic Physicians Research Network were solid steps forward for joint naturopathic research action. From about 1985, the profession began to do its own research; in the 1990s, we gained experience and academic research departments grew. In the last decade, we clarified the right research questions and the general methodologies, while a growing number of naturopathic physicians have been trained at research universities across the country. Now it is time to build upon these gains and produce the studies and data that can help transform the profession.

The Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI) is a nonprofit organization established in 2010 and led by naturopathic scientists and clinicians. Its mission is to “stimulate, organize, fund, conduct and disseminate research on the clinical practice and outcomes of naturopathic physicians in order to improve practice and the health of our patients and communities." The NPRI is the home of the Naturopathic Physicians Research Network, now with more than 100 members in the United States and Canada and registered as a primary-care research network with the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. For more information about the NPRI, visit their website. To become a member of the Naturopathic Physicians Research Network, simply complete this registration form.

If you are a leader in a naturopathic academic institution, profession association, naturopathic specialty society, or in the industries involved in naturopathic care, or if you are a potential or established naturopathic scientist, please join us at this groundbreaking event and help create the firmest foundations for the profession’s future.

About the Author

Carlo Calabrese, ND, MPH, is a Senior Investigator at the Helfgott Research Institute at National College of Natural Medicine. He received his ND from NCNM in 1983 and the MPH from the University of Washington. He was a founder and co-director of the research institute at Bastyr, where he authored the first successful application for an NIH grant to a naturopathic institution and developed the first research laboratory at a CAM academic institution. He is the Director of the recently-initiated Naturopathic Physicians Research Network. He has published clinical trials and observational studies in nutrients, botanicals, and CAM practices.