Predictions for significantly greater recognition of various alternative health practices may surprise some people; however, these forecasts are simply projections from present-day trends. The number of alternative birth centers in hospitals has grown astronomically in the past fifteen years. Hospices have gained broad support from hospitals, federal agencies, and various charitable medical organizations, including the American Cancer Society. There is more interest in nutrition and fitness than ever before, and this interest does not seem to be simply faddish, but seems to represent a significant change in lifestyle.
Just ten years ago, biofeedback was considered a part of "alternative medicine," but today it is an integral part of the care provided by many physicians and psychologists. Relaxation and visualization exercises are not simply pasttimes for idle moments when one has nothing better to do, but are becoming consciously planned activities that provide their own health benefits.
Acupuncture is not just gaining wider credibility from the public, but is being practiced by a growing number of various health professionals. In 1974 no states licensed acupuncturists, and yet today, over 20 states license them.
An even more controversial alternative therapy, homeopathic medicine, has begun to achieve increased respectability as well. New research has been published in highly respected scientific journals on homeopathy which shows that the small doses of medicines that homeopaths use definitely have action,(6) and a meta-analysis of clinical studies which was published in the British Medical Journal. found the medicines to be particularly effective in treating allergies, arthritic conditions, migraine headaches, common infections, and rheumatoid arthritis.(7) Sales of homeopathic medicines in the U.S. have grown from a $100 million market in 1988 to a $200 million market in 1992.
Naisbett, Bezold, Carlson, and Peck are not the only futurists who are predicting the emergence of high-natural medicine in the twenty-first century.(8) The American Council of Life Insurance has published a series of reports on health care in the year 2030. One of the Council's scenarios for the future predicts, "Osteopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists, ethnic healers, and allopathically trained diagnositicians (conventional physicians) will have equal status---and roughly equal earnings."(9)
The Emergence of Collaborative Health Care
Health care in the twenty-first century will inevitably have both high-tech and high-natural components. A "collaborative model of health care" will inevitably emerge. High-tech physicians will collaborate with various high-touch health practitioners, and the patient him or herself will play an active role as an integral part of the health care team. Such health care will have its difficulties, complexities, and problems too, but it will also probably help us die young...as late in life as possible.
(1)Thomas A. Preston, The Clay Pedestal, New York: Charles Scribner's, 1986, 130.
(2)K. Steele, et.al., "Iatrogenic Illness on a General Medical Service at a University Hospital," New England Journal of Medicine, 304 (1981): 638-642.
(3)Tom Ferguson, MD, "The Growing Trend Toward Self-Responsibility for Health," Medical Self-Care, November-December, 1986, 64.
(4)Original source: John Fiorello, Helping Ourselves to Health: The Self-Care and Personal Health Enhancement Market in the U.S., New York, 1983, 67 (The Health Strategy Group, 325 Spring St., New York, NY 10013).
(5)Meg Fletcher, "Interest in Wellness Programs Surges," Business Insurance, February, 1987: 21(7):31.
(6)For many references, see Dana Ullman, Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century, Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1991.
(7)Kleijnen, J., P. Knipschild, and G. ter Riet, "Clinical Trials of Homoeopathy," British Medical Journal, 302: February 9, 1991, 316-23.
(8)Clement Bezold, Rick J. Carlson, and Jonathan C. Peck, The Future of Work and Health, Dover, Massachusetts: Auburn House, 1986.
(9)Trend Analysis Program, Health Care: Three Reports from 2030 A.D., Washington, D.C.: American Council for Life Insurance, Spring, 1980, 10-11.