European healthcare is in crisis and in urgent need of CAM's contribution
It is becoming more and more evident that the current concept of healthcare is unsustainable in the long run and that a radical change will have to happen sooner or later:
“While the organisational structure and funding mechanisms of health systems varies across Europe, the general reliance on the biomedical model of healthcare with all its associated costs, inefficiencies, inequalities of access and patient dissatisfaction calls for a radically new approach. With increasing costs of the treating of chronic disease, the inexorable increase in costs associated with an ageing population and the demands of ever more expensive medical technologies, there appears little prospect that resources can match demand. Systemic change is required.” (144)
The technical report of the NATO Science and Technology Organization, mentioned on page 140, reaches the same conclusion.
The untapped potential of CAM lies in the following:
- Promoting responsibility for one’s own health, health literacy and healthy lifestyle (it is estimated that preventive measures and emphasis on maintaining good health could decrease healthcare costs in Europe by 70% - 80%, see page 129).
- Promoting disease prevention through cheaper interventions that potentially lead to long-term outcomes.
“There is a small but growing amount of evidence to show that the introduction of CAM into primary care can improve morbidity and mortality while reducing healthcare costs.” (145)
Estimates suggest that by 2025, a third of Europe's population will be over 60 and many people will be over the age of 80:
“Without a sea change that sees positive measures implemented to support the aims of Healthy Ageing, the burden on care services may become intolerable.
CAM’s focus is on salutogenesis is inherently geared to supporting healthy active longevity.” (146)
An increase in the occurrence of chronic diseases
Preventing non-transmissible diseases
“The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) notes that only 3% of health budgets are spent on prevention and promotion, leading to calls for a paradigm shift away from treating illness and towards helping individuals to make healthier choices and take greater responsibility for their own health. This is an area where CAM professionals can provide added value by supporting their patients to adopt healthy behaviour, a key challenge in tackling lifestylerelated chronic conditions.” (147)
Such issues include healthy eating, exercise, but also improving the quality of sleep, managing stress, finding a work-life balance, and so on.
“Supporting good health and prevention of illness is now recognised as having the greatest cost-effective and health outcome potential both for citizens and health systems.“ (148)
CAM and cancer treatment
Oncology is one of the areas where the integrative approach is strongly promoted. In integrative oncology CAM therapy is used as a complementary method to improve oncology and anticancer therapies, including the psychological stress associated with severe diseases. Patients state that CAM significantly contributes to improving the quality of their lives (see page 191).
“A recent meta-analysis (2012) has suggested an increase in CAM use in cancer care from an estimated 25% in the 1970s and 1980s to more than 32% in the 1990s and to 49% after 2000.” (149)
“Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in cancer care’ is one of the deliverables of EPAAC, the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer (EPAAC). EPAAC is an initiative started by the European Commission in 2009 with the support of many partners and cofounded by the European Union. This action – which collected the efforts of the European Commission, member States and corresponding Health Ministries, associations of patients, clinicians and researchers, industry and civil society – intended to face the cancer issue in an effective and harmonised way within the European Union.” (150)
The threat of antimicrobial resistance
“Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is recognised by the WHO and EU as a major worldwide threat to public health. They have warned that, if measures are not taken immediately to counter AMR, the implications for human health will be devastating.” (151)
“In the light of this crisis and in order to reduce the use of antibiotics, there is sufficient evidence and practical experience that some CAM modalities can contribute to the greater efforts needed to encourage healthy lifestyles reducing the need for antibiotic use. In addition, increasing evidence suggests that herbal, anthroposophic and homeopathic medicine can offer effective alternatives to antibiotics. They must therefore be seriously considered and investigated by the EU, both for human health and animal health.” (152)
“EUROCAM calls for the potential of CAM in reducing the problem of AMR to be given serious consideration and for further research to be carried out in this area to determine in which conditions, both in human and veterinary healthcare, specific CAM modalities are particularly effective. Compared with other avenues, such as the identification and development of new antibiotics, such trials would be relatively easy and inexpensive to carry out. In return for this small investment, the potential rewards could be enormous.” (153)
Costs associated with faulty medical interventions amount to billions
“EU statistics reveal that 8-12% of patients admitted to hospital suffer adverse events from conventional medicine while receiving care and at least 198,000 patients die each year from medical errors (…). The costs of dealing with the consequences of these events run into billions of euros annually. The good safety profile of CAM is another cogent reason for CAM to be integrated into health systems, thereby reducing some of the more high-risk interventions which inevitably pose more risks to patient safety.” (154)