First-Ever Science Summit at the AANP Convention a Success

Summit examines healthcare policy and research initiatives

By Karolyn A. Gazella

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For the first time in the history of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Annual Convention, a Science Summit was held the day before to discuss healthcare policy and research initiatives. Hosted by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), and the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), the Summit brought together naturopathic clinicians, researchers, and leaders of academic and professional associations to discuss the naturopathic profession, patient access, public relations, and public health regulations.

Ian Coulter, PhD, senior health policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, gave an interesting keynote that described how the chiropractic profession created a model for success in terms of patient access and profession-generated research. “As a profession, you have to produce knowledge rather than borrow it from others,” explained Coulter.

Jane Guiltinan, ND, Dean of the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University attended the Summit and said, “The research summit was an important addition to our convention this year. Hearing how other professions evolved their research agendas and utilized their research data provided valuable insight and lessons learned that the naturopathic profession will benefit from.”

Lorraine Jordon, PhD, executive director of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, drew some parallels between Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and the naturopathic profession and described their successful media campaign associated with 2010 research data involving the safety profile of unsupervised CRNAs. Jordon emphasized the importance of creating and supporting strong research data but then explained that there needs to be an entire campaign devoted to getting the information out to the masses.

While we understand that research is not sufficient to control legislation, we generally agree that the naturopathic profession must grow the capacity to do more studies.

Research updates were provided by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Bastyr University and NPRI, summing up the current evidence for North American naturopathic practice and current methods for policy-informing studies. There were discussions about the influence of research on new licensing and the scope of practice, on decision-making by insurers and on how naturopathic physicians can fill the gaps within primary care. An update on funding from the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine was also provided.

In breakout sessions, leaders from academics, specialty societies, state naturopathic associations and the AANP, met to consider next steps. “During the Summit, there was consensus that research to inform policy in our field is very important. While we understand that research is not sufficient to control legislation, we generally agree that the naturopathic profession must grow the capacity to do more studies, especially on effectiveness and cost, and that, for some preliminary work, resources internal to the profession will need to be accessed,” said Carlo Calabrese, ND, Executive Director of NPRI. NPRI is preparing a complete report of the meeting’s findings for distribution to the attending leaders and those interested in the profession’s development.

“The internationally acclaimed studies and commitment to inclusive research appearing in peer-reviewed journals and other notable publications sends a profound message of the considerable breadth and effectiveness of naturopathic medicine,” said Susan Kay Hunter, Vice President of Advancement at NCNM.

Guiltinan concluded, “These policy-level discussions are vital to help all stakeholders make well informed and strategic decisions about research priorities.”

About the Author

Karolyn A. Gazella is the publisher of the Natural Medicine Journal and the host of the Natural Medicine Journal Podcast series. She also co-hosts the Five to Thrive Live weekly radio show on the Cancer Support Network, which is also widely available as a podcast. She has been writing and publishing integrative health information since 1992 and is the author or co-author of several books and booklets on a variety of holistic health topics.