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Exploring Complementary and Integrative Health Approaches and Resources

by Margie Sheppard Margie Sheppard, Community Engagement Coordinator - Region 3, NNLM, University of Kansas Medical Center and Bobbi L. Newman, Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist, Region 6, NNLM, University of Iowa Librari on March 8, 2024

In recent years, complementary and integrative health approaches have surged in popularity as individuals seek holistic and personalized methods to enhance their well-being. From acupuncture and herbal medicine to yoga and mindfulness meditation, these practices offer potential benefits that resonate with many people. However, amidst this diverse health information landscape, it’s essential to tread with caution and awareness to ensure safety and efficacy.

Integrative health refers to merging conventional medical practices with complementary approaches in a coordinated manner.  Outside of this, some alternative or non-mainstream approaches operate within a framework with fewer regulations and less extensive research. As such, individuals must practice discernment, taking into consideration factors such as historical origins, cultural diversity, and the strength of supporting evidence. Understanding these nuances is crucial for guiding patrons toward trustworthy resources and information, promoting informed decision-making, and enhancing overall well-being.

For many public librarians, delving into complementary and integrative practices may feel like entering uncharted territory. The sheer diversity and breadth of these approaches can be intriguing and overwhelming, particularly for those encountering them for the first time while assisting patrons in locating information. However, with a proactive approach to learning and a commitment to staying informed, librarians can effectively navigate this complex landscape and provide valuable assistance to patrons seeking information on complementary and integrative health.

By fostering an environment of openness, curiosity, and respect for diverse perspectives, public libraries can serve as valuable hubs for individuals seeking reliable information on complementary and integrative health. Through curated collections, educational programs, and partnerships with local health organizations, librarians can empower patrons to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Libraries should never interpret medical practices and treatments. However, suggesting patrons involve their primary care providers in deciding whether complementary and integrative health is right for them and providing evidence-based resources is acceptable. With this in mind, let’s embark on a journey of exploration and discovery in the fascinating world of complementary and integrative health.

Here are some tools and resources to help you better assist your community.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)  includes information that helps health consumers understand the variety of CIH approaches, explore specific approaches, and what the research shows. The website is also available in Spanish.

Complementary and Integrative Medicine from MedlinePlus. MedlinePlus provides easy-to-read pages on complementary health practices, making it an excellent consumer starting point. It offers dependable health information accessible at no cost, free from advertising, and committed to not endorsing any commercial entities or products.

Are your “all natural” claims all accurate?  from FTC. If companies market their products as “all-natural” or “100% natural,” consumers have a right to take them at their word.

Natural Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Safer or Better from NCCIH. Many people believe that when it comes to medicine, “natural” is better, healthier, and safer than “unnatural” or synthetic drugs.

Have You Heard About… Health Care Scams?  A 2-page flyer from the FTC. Available as a downloadable PDF or available to order at no cost.

Avoid Health Fraud Scams  (pdf) The FDA defines health fraud as the deceptive promotion, advertising, distribution, or sale of a product represented as being effective in preventing, diagnosing, treating, curing, or lessening an illness or condition or providing another beneficial effect on health, but that has not been scientifically proven safe and effective for such purposes.

Health Fraud Scams …are Everywhere. Get the Facts.  (pdf) Health fraud scams refer to products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure diseases or other health conditions but are not proven safe and effective for those uses—a downloadable fact sheet from the FDA.

To learn more about complementary and integrated health, check out our new class, Exploring Complementary and Integrative Health: Information, Resources, and Evaluation, which is scheduled to launch in June 2024.



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