Paradoxes of Integrative Health Care: The Question of Legitimate Evidence Bases

By Ana Ning.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The study of integration of different medical practices in Western industrialized nations such as Canada has garnered intense scholarly attention. The aim of this article is to problematize the ongoing emphasis on a single, bio-scientific evidence base to assess the efficacy and safety standards of complementary/alternative medical (CAM) practices. Since mainstream health care practitioners as well as many integrative health care proponents in Canada emphasize the biomedical framework in defining evidence bases, I argue that this orientation creates three main paradoxes of CAM integration into mainstream health care: i) a hierarchy of value between the Western biomedical paradigm and other legitimate CAM epistemologies; ii) the biomedicalization of CAM practices, and iii) an integrative health care system that only considers bio-scientific evidence. Through preliminary ethnographic research with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners in Ontario, Canada, I conclude that further collaborative research with practitioners of various medical traditions who integrate CAM into their regular practices is necessary to identify more encompassing types of evidence to evaluate the safety and efficacy of any therapeutic modality. Such a broader conceptual framework will facilitate a truly symmetrical and integrative health care system in which the contributions to health and wellness from different epistemologies meet diverse health care needs.

Keywords: Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Integrative Health Care, Evidence Bases, Canada

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp.237-248. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 588.709KB).

Ana Ning

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Ana Ning has a broad range of academic interests. Originally trained as a social anthropologist, her teaching, research and publishing activities are committed to interdisciplinary scholarship that integrates academic and community needs. Her published research has focused on the areas of addiction and mental health and complementary and alternative health care with wider application in public policy and clinical settings. While her published research has focused on health-related issues, her interests and perspectives are also relevant to diverse topics including social theory, crime, social control, as well as culture, gender and ethnic social relations. Her own multicultural background with lived experiences in East Asia, Africa and Europe prior to settling in Canada is well suited to her work with multicultural and multilingual populations.


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