Erin Meyering

Despite healthcare reform’s rigidity in traditional medicine, people seek out alternatives

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Alternative treatment can sometimes include diet change and herbal remedies seen here in the Food Co-Op of Northern Nevada.

In today’s maze of overwhelmingly detailed healthcare reform and a seemingly unlimited amount of healthcare options, it is easy and perhaps understandable for people to block out fussy healthcare alternatives.

However, this does not seem to be the case.

According to, in a National Health Interview Survey complied between 2002 and 2007, the use of complementary and alternative medicine therapies (referred to by researchers as CAM), increased by 18.1 percent among whites, 17.2 percent among Asians, 6.6 percent among blacks and 1 percent among Hispanics.

Alternative medicine includes treatments like herbal remedies, aromatherapy, massage, acupuncture, reflexology, sound therapy and specific nutrition guidelines.

The new healthcare bill does not directly acknowledge alternative medicine, but there are indications that many are becoming increasingly aware of their healthcare alternatives.

“I think [complementary medicine] will start changing the system because of young people,” said Dr. Judy Strauss, a marketing and journalism professor at UNR. “People are requesting it and finding it for themselves.

Although medical experts of both the alternative and traditional fields claim that it is beneficial for patients to experience both types of treatment, the healthcare bill has not fully jumped onto the complementary medicine bandwagon.

“If there is evidence of [alternative medicine’s] benefit, then yes I refer my patients,” said John Watson, physician of internal medicine at Renown said. “It must be studied and proven to be effective.”

Though, in Nevada, the 518,000 residents who are uninsured and 132,000 residents who have individual market insurance will gain access to affordable coverage with the new healthcare reform (Senator Harry Reid’s website) may not seek out alternative medicine based on the contents of their policy, other people are.

“Acupuncture is not a panacea, it does not treat everything but it treats many, many things and it’s a great complement to a lot of western treatments,” said Maureen McKenny, oriental medicine doctor.
Photo curtesy of Google Images.

Sarah Whitson, 18, makes use of alternative medicine. Raised in a household encouraging it, Whitson has developed a particular appreciation for it.

“I think holistic medicine can be a good alternative to conventional medicine, but it may not always be the answer,” Whitson said.

Whitson has received acupunctural treatment herself, since age 16, for severe migraines. The alternative treatment keeps her off heavy drugs such as “rescue drugs” many migraine suffers may take, she said. Whitson’s dog has even had acupuncture for the promotion of good muscle function and blood flow.

Alternative medicine and traditional medicine both seek to help, conquer, relieve and treat. Their methods of doing these things are varied, but their goal is still the same.

After years of dealing with immense stress and finding no constant relief through traditional medicine, Strauss turned to complementary treatment. In addition to an overall connection with sound therapy, Strauss actively participates in gong meditations by performing an intense series of sound with a gong for some of her students on campus.

The music and sound therapy focuses on the main rhythms of the body, Strauss explained. The heart, breath and brainwaves’ rhythm compel the body to move and heal in synch with one another.

For a sneak peak at Strauss’s gong meditation visit:

Strauss and John Peckham, director of health policy research at UNR, said that more and more students are requesting information on alternative treatments.

According to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), nearly three fourths of U.S. medical schools offer elective courses in natural or alternative medicine or include it in required courses.

Although a variety of classes are offered, no classes seem to carry the title “alternative medicine” at UNR in Fall 2012.

With people of all ages showing interest in alternative medicine, some specialists’ hopes are up for change.

“What I would like to see change, and it is changing, there’s much more communication between a western doctor and myself,” said Maureen McKenney, oriental medicine doctor and local acupuncturist at Path to Wellness.

St. Mary’s Urgent Care is one of the many providers of traditional medical care for Northern Nevadans.

However the reality can be different than what is actually being seen in current healthcare reform.

The states’ leeway in adopting the healthcare legislation to fit their states needs includes “preventative or wellness services.” According to Peckham, this is how alternative medicine treatments could potentially be brought in.

“The reform legislation primarily focuses on health insurance reform…that basically doesn’t include alternative medicine,” said Peckham. “What’s interesting is that the federal government is allowing states to define what is considered an ‘essential health benefit.’”

The Department of Health and Human Services healthcare website labels January 1, 2014 the reform’s deadline. Time and The Supreme Court will determine how alternative medicine factors into the bill.

Quick Tips: How can you find appropriate and accurate health information with all that is out there?

Be open to new things: Speak to your primary health care provider about different options.

Do your homework: Research, research, research. Find sources based on statistical information.

Double check: Each and every source should be reviewed and vetted for best information.

Seek out help: Ask your insurance provider about your options in combining alternative and tradition medicine.

Trial and error: Like anything, you may need to try different methods of treatment to find the best fit for you.

Compiled by Erin Meyering, with information from John Peckham


Written by emeyering

May 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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