Introductory Essay: Taking stock of integrative medicine: Broadening biomedicine or co-option of complementary and alternative medicine?

Baer, Hans; Coulter, Ian
December 2008
Health Sociology Review;Dec2008, Vol. 17 Issue 4, p331
Academic Journal
In response to the emergence of the holistic health movement in the early 1970s and the rising popularity of complementary and alternative therapies, a growing number of biomedical physicians and institutions have embraced complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), often under the guise of integrative medicine. Whereas alternative medicine is often defined as functioning outside biomedicine and complementary medicine beside it; integrative medicine purports to combine the best of both biomedicine and CAM. Some social scientists have argued biomedicine has become more holistic as a result of this development, whereas others suggest it has embarked upon a subtle process of absorbing or co-opting CAM. This special issue consists of six articles that address changes in the health care sectors of four Anglophone societies, namely the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, associated with the adoption of integrative medicine or CAM. The authors examine some of the causes and consequences of this development. Is this a reframing of biomedicine itself, an erosion of medicine's political, economic, and social authority, a response to managerialism and the demands of consumers or market pressures, an expression of rising legitimacy for CAM, or a new professional strategy for biomedicine? And finally, where might the push for evidence-based medicine fit into this equation?


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