In February 2004, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (nccam) celebrated its fifth anniversary as 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health (nih). As stated in the law (Public Law 105-277) establishing nccam in fy 1999, its purposes are "the conduct and support of basic and applied research…research training, the dissemination of health information, and other programs with respect to identifying, investigating, and validating complementary and alternative treatment, diagnostic and prevention modalities, disciplines and systems."

With that legal mandate in place, nccam moved quickly to develop its first 5-year strategic plan for 2001–2005, Expanding Horizons of Healthcare. Guided by input from the public and from complementary and alternative medicine (cam) and conventional professional communities, the plan outlined a set of broad goals and objectives in four strategic areas: investing in research, training cam investigators, expanding outreach, and facilitating integration, while pledging a commitment to practice responsible stewardship.

As the fifth anniversary of the Center and the plan approached, nccam initiated steps to develop a new strategic plan. The process again entailed seeking advice from nccamprovided with background material and analyses of the first plan (described in Part i: nccam's second 5-year strategic plan has used the lessons learned in meeting the challenges of the first plan to refind future directions—most importantly, to set priorities in all strategic areas—while affirming the original mission and vision statements.

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