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Naturopathic doctors are in the news again!  Newly published research of a review of 13 clinical studies of “whole practice” naturopathic treatment highlight the value of individualized and multiple modality approach to health care.  The review was presented at the International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health, May 15-18, 2012.  The key aspect of the naturopathic research was the impact of providing health care using at least two therapeutic modalities simultaneously.  The poster presentation was entitled “Systematic Review of Outcomes Studies of Outcomes Studies of Whole Practice Naturopathic Medicine.” The poster team was led by Erica Oberg, N.D., MPH and Carlo Calabrese, N.D., MPH.

All of the naturopathic studies were on chronic conditions. “Some degree of clinical benefit” was found in each, “sometimes quite strong.” Eight of the 13 used quality of life measures with all showing improvements. While noting many “methodological weaknesses,” the team concluded that the review “provides evidence of effectiveness and cost savings in chronic diseases in the observed or validly-modeled practice of trained and licensed naturopathic doctors.”

Whole Person Care, Multiple Therapeutic Modalities

Whether by naturopathic doctors or integrative medical doctors, one of the hallmarks of integrative, whole-person care is that doctors virtually never treat with single agents.  An herb, nutrient, or pharmaceutical may be a centerpiece, but in addition there may be counseling, dietary suggestions, additional supplements, exercise, and some form of stress management.

According to John Weeks, the author of this news article, this type of research offers valuable information to health care decision makers.

“The aim is not to show that X therapy caused Y response under controlled conditions. Rather, these help stakeholders — whether employers, individuals, hospitals, or accountable care organization leaders — understand what may happen if a given population of patients is cared for by a set of integrative practitioners. These specifically help answer whether naturopathic doctors will be helpful if included in care teams or benefit plans.”

This spring, a pilot project between Group Health Research Institute and Bastyr University, a naturopathic medical school in Seattle, Washington compared adjunctive naturopathic care for 40 patients with Type II diabetes against usual care for a Group Health population.  No specific protocol was required of the participating naturopathic physician clinicians. They were only told they could offer no more than eight patient visits during the study year.  Patients who received naturopathic care reported improvements in self-efficacy, mood, glucose testing and motivation to change lifestyle.  Changes in hemoglobin A 1c were trending positively but not statistically significant in the small sample.

Although the patients were permitted eight patient visits during this study, the average number of visits was just 3.9, less than half of what was allowed.  According the Weeks, this should reassure employers and insurance companies that naturopathic doctors won’t break the bank.  Although the sample of these research projects may be small, these whole-practice studies reflect a significant contribution to the outcomes of real world treatment by integrative doctors of any kind.

Source:  Huffington Post, How Naturopathic Doctors are Proving the Value of Integrative Medicine, by John Weeks

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