N C C A M: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Expanding horizons of health care

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Director's Page

Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Message from the Director

From Bench to Bedside: The Need to Fill Information Gaps

April 15, 2009

For 10 years, NCCAM has been supporting research studies on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices, determining their safety and effectiveness, and reporting the findings to the medical community and to the public. In these 10 years, we have funded more than 2,200 research projects, resulting in more than 3,300 articles published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

A paper published in the April 13, 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine exposes a gap in the knowledge and application of CAM research in clinical practice. In sum, approximately one in four clinicians was aware of two major CAM clinical trials. The 1,561 clinicians surveyed included acupuncturists, naturopaths, internists, and rheumatologists.

This finding is only one part of a larger issue; there are other contributing factors to consider. According to the National Health Interview Survey, about 40 percent of Americans are using some form of CAM. A 2006 NCCAM/AARP survey revealed that less than one-third of CAM users age 50+ talk to their physicians about CAM use. Together, these factors point to serious information gaps between what people are using for their health and what the state of the science is to support that use. To ensure safe and integrated care, health care providers need to be aware of what CAM practices their patients are using and also be aware of the state of the research on CAM.

So, while the first step in safe and effective integration of CAM practices into health care is to conduct rigorous, objective research, the next step—and an equally important step—is to make health care providers aware of these results.

How can health care providers stay informed?

I encourage you to take advantage of these tools and resources, and let us know how we can ensure that these important research findings reach you.

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