Integrative Health Insights: A Call to Action, Join the Global Movement

Sponsored by Integrative Therapeutics™

By Tabatha Parker, ND

Printer Friendly PagePrinter Friendly Page

Developing a global perspective that changes you. It is a humbling experience—almost spiritual—as you must learn to surrender, to sit back and listen to other opinions, other perspectives, and other ways of doing things. It forces you to get out of your comfort zone. It requires you to cultivate respect for others and the way they choose to do things regardless of your own opinions. 
 
I watched in the wee hours of the morning as the Brexit vote was announced in Britain. It shocked many around the planet, but to me it marked a time of tremendous change. In what direction remains to be seen. A palpable shifting is happening—a complex movement of energies and peoples—and a deep discontent and polarization. The same is true of the natural medicine movement and the true integration of natural and conventional medicine. It is a movement. It is global. A resetting. The global movement is making slow, steady progress towards holistic health for all—and the right to access that care. 
 
A convergence is happening.  
 
It is happening in the United States, but it has been happening outside of the United States for decades. It will require us—notably within the naturopathic profession, to learn to use the international documents strategically for inclusion of our profession into health systems internationally. It is about access to care and choice of that care. It is every human being’s right, and the World Health Organization is leading that charge.

A Commitment to Become a Policy Wonk

For many clinicians and community advocates, policy is boring. It feels irrelevant to everyday practice. Many leave that to the policy wonks to deal with.
 
So today I ask you to shift that perspective. I am going to ask you to take action today. Not just by reading this article, but by becoming involved on a personal level. 
 
Read the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023. It is available online for free in 7 languages. Every clinician, administrator, and industry leader needs to read this document. It sets out clear goals for every country on this planet toward the goal of holistic health for all—accessibility and the right to choose. 

Language & the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy

The WHO global definitions of Traditional Medicine (TM) and Complementary Medicine (CM) are as follows:
 
“Traditional Medicine (TM): Traditional medicine has a long history. It is the sum total of the knowledge, skill, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.” 
 
“Complementary medicine (CM): The terms ‘complementary medicine’ or ‘alternative medicine’ refer to a broad set of health care practices that are not part of that country’s own tradition or conventional medicine and are not fully integrated into the dominant health-care system. They are used interchangeably with traditional medicine in some countries.”
 
“Traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM): T&CM merges the terms TM and CM, encompassing products, practices, and practitioners.”
 
The strategy lays out a common language, but it has an omission: integrative medicine or integrative health and medicine. In North America, our language has been ever evolving, particularly in the USA where a name changing seems to be evolving us into a space where we are more united, more integrated. Some feel it is diluting us and that it is dangerous for professions such as naturopathy—that we will somehow loose our roots. I say rubbish. 
 
The move toward the word “integrative” and away from “complementary” could mark the furthering evolution toward a more inclusive system, but only if we work toward updating and including a globally agreed upon definition for “integrative health and medicine” that is inclusive. We could work toward that definition in the 3rd edition of the strategy. The definition could evolve the current CM definition. Integrative Health and Medicine (IHM) refers to a broad set of healthcare practices that not are part of that country’s own tradition but have been fully integrated into the dominant healthcare system and includes many professions. 
 
We have an opportunity for integrative medicine to be the collective evolution of all the work many professions have been doing for centuries. We can have a significant global policy impact by using our collective voice to unite a global movement. We must not be attached to one word or profession but must work towards holistic health for all.

The Stuttgart Declaration

In June of 2016, the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM), in collaboration with DAMID, the global Anthroposophic medicine umbrella organization, put on an event in Stuttgart, Germany, that brought together leaders from the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and leadership from complementary and integrative health and medicine from around the world.  
 
The result was the Stuttgart Integrative Health & Medicine Declaration, which has been put on change.org as on online petition. The goal: 1 million signatures.

What is the significance of the Stuttgart Declaration?

Global declarations are a useful tool because they bring together a voice around a specific goal. One of the most famous health declarations of our time that was a profound milestone for primary healthcare was the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978. It called on governments to implement primary care strategies to reach “Health for All” by 2000. 
 
The Stuttgart Declaration is both a commitment and a call to action: a shared vision to improve human health and wellbeing for all, to build a concerted, global movement to advance the integrative health and medicine approach, based on mutual respect, exchange, collaboration, and cooperation.
 
It calls on governments globally to recognize integrative health and medicine, to include it in national health services, to collaborate on research and licensing efforts, and to prioritize the implementation of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023.
 
One of the most significant calls to action is that we call on professional medical organizations to actively support the implementation of WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy, including through certification of T&CM practitioners and practices.

The Future

Our future depends on our ability to unify and empower all traditional, complementary, integrative, and conventional medicines and professions—integrating into a system where no one is outside, but each an intricate part of a health creation system where choice is possible and diversity is respected and rewarded. Unity brings us strength. The diversity and rich practices and traditions that T&CM holds are essential to reach our goal: holistic health for all.
 
The next step is to work to formally present the petition at the WHO World Health Assembly in 2017—to help move us all forward hand in hand—a petition that, I hope, will have 1 million signatures. Our unity will change the face of health on this planet. 
 
Click here for more from Dr Tabatha Parker on moving the integrative medicine movement forward. 

About the Sponsor

Integrative Therapeutics believes in the people and institutions leading the movement forward, breaking down the barriers between integrative care and everyone who needs it. Integrative Therapeutics is committed to supporting these initiatives because we believe everyone deserves options to choose their ideal path to health and happiness. To watch individuals share more about their thoughts on moving the integrative movement forward, visit Integrative Wisdom. All opinions expressed are those of the subjects.

About the Author

Tabatha Parker, ND, has dedicated her career to breaking down the boundaries to natural care, and spreading the practice to the areas of the world that need it most. She is the co-founder and president of Natural Doctors International, the first and oldest naturopathic global health organization. NDI is working to gain official relations status with the World Health Organization so that Naturopaths can fully participate in global health policy. Their clinic in Nicaragua serves a shining example of what can be accomplished, providing over 25,000 patients free naturopathic care and nearly $500,000 worth of medicines. The clinic is driven by volunteers, and provides students and doctors the opportunity to hone their practice in a new environment. You can join the cause here. Dr. Parker currently serves as the Director of Education at the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM), the leading provider of education and e-learning of health professionals in Integrative Health & Medicine. She is a writer, social justice activist, artist, singer and dedicated wife and mother of two. In 2011, she was given the prestigious UTNE Reader Visionary of the Year award, alongside other global visionaries. She joins her alma mater, National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), with great enthusiasm as co-chair of the Master of Science in Global Health program, the first global health program offered at a naturopathic medical school.