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Integrative Health Care

© Pamela Miles

Few would argue that a patient is best served by a comprehensive health care program that integrates both conventional and traditional approaches to health/healing, as needed and desired by the patient.

The World Health Organization recognizes that health is more than the absence of disease. Health is a dynamic, resilient state of well-being. A healthy person has the capacity to weather reasonable stress and return to balance.

Conventional medicine focuses on the detection and treatment of disease and has no explicit model for health other than the absence of disease. Complementary and alternative medical therapies usually approach the patient from a holistic, whole-person, perspective that extends beyond pathophysiology. Such therapies follow the advice of Hippocrates that it is more important to know the person having the disease than to know the disease the person has, and these approaches typically seek to engage the person in self-care as a vital contribution to well-being.

This person-centered perspective has been largely set aside by conventional medicine's increased dependence on technology. As patients and professionals alike recognize that conventional medicine alone will not return patients to well-being, they turn increasingly to an integrative approach to healthcare. Integrative healthcare involves an open-minded, clear-headed combination of therapies and lifestyle changes that suit the individual's needs on every level, physically, emotionally, socially, financially, and in terms of values and beliefs (Astin, 1998). But it is not simply an integration of techniques that characterizes an integrative approach to healthcare; it is also the integration of the person into the health care team. At its most comprehensive level of functioning, integrative health care rests on the foundation of the patient's engagement in healing and self-care.

Integrative health care underscores the need to integrate disease management, curative treatment, and healing. Although conventional medicine retains its primary focus on treatment of disease, there is an increasing acknowledgement of the wider needs of patients. Overview courses in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are currently taught in most American medical schools, and a variety of clinical settings from academic clinics to hospitals to private practices have begun incorporating CAM techniques and referring to CAM professionals. In spite of the limitations in the evidence base for CAM, medical professionals are increasingly comfortable with low-risk CAM practices used by their patients. Reiki seems to be a safe and effective tool for reducing stress which can be accessed by patients at home, and which is especially popular among health care professionals and the public. Patients can safely combine Reiki with any other conventional or CAM technique. Additionally, it can be used by healthy people to support continued well-being (Miles and True, 2003).

Astin JA. Why patients use alternative medicine: results of a national survey. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998;279(19):1548-1553.

Miles P, True G. Reiki-Review of a Biofield Therapy: History, Theory, Practice, and Research. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2003;9(2):62-72.

Self Care
At home or in hospital, the care of the patient begins with the care of the caregiver.

People with chronic disease understand the importance of self-care. Diabetics must monitor blood levels, self-administer medications, and watch their legs and feet for ulcers and other signs of decreased circulation. People with less threatening conditions need to take their medications reliably to avoid medical complications. Others use diet and exercise to prevent disease and enhance health. This is the extent of self care for many in our postmodern culture.

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About The Author
Pamela Miles, founding president of the Institute for the Advancement of Complementary Therapies (I*ACT) www.complementary-therapies.org, has 35 years experience as a clinician, educator and lecturer in natural healing. She has been a student of meditation and yoga for 45 years. Ms. Miles began practicing Reiki in 1986 and was initiated as a Reiki master in 1990....more
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