A Growing Profession

It is now safe to say that alternative medicine is no longer on the fringe of healthcare. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, released in December 2008, approximately 42% of Americans are spending more than 34 billion dollars on complementary and alternative therapies each year.

Consumers are fueling the growth of alternative medicine as current trends reflect they made 628 million visits to alternative healthcare providers, 243 million more than visits to primary-care physicians.

Dr. David Eisenberg, the author of the study and Director of the Center for Alternative Medicine and Research at Beth Israel and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School claims that, “One out of every two individuals between the ages of 30-55 use alternative therapies.” What this growing base of consumers seems to prefer is the safe, non-invasive nature of alternative therapies, the affordable cost of treatments and the emphasis on preventing illness while maintaining optimal health.

According to Barrie R. Cassileth, MS, PhD, Laurence S. Rockefeller Chair in Integrative Medicine and the Chief of Integrative Medicine at the New York Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, “A growing acceptance of alternative therapies by conventional doctors is resulting in rapid expansion of integrative medicine centers across the U.S. with the majority of U.S cancer centers now offering some form of complementary therapy.”

In the past ten years, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, gave $22.5 million to 14 medical schools to develop new curriculum in alternative medicine. Harvard University, John Hopkins University and other Western medical schools are meeting growing consumer demands by offering courses in alternative therapies to their medical students.

Although Traditional Chinese Medicine has been the primary healthcare system for over 25 percent of the world’s population for decades, today it is the fastest growing form of healthcare in the United States.

In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) published findings stating that acupuncture can be effectively used to treat over 43 conditions. A number of controlled studies have proven the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating a variety of conditions from osteoarthritis to migraine headaches. The prestigious Mayo Clinic uses acupuncture for a number of ailments, including pain management, drug addiction and anxiety relief. Insurance providers are taking note, providing improved coverage for alternative therapies, including chiropractic, massage and acupuncture.

According to the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, growth in the acupuncture profession has increased dramatically, providing graduates with a multitude of career opportunities around the world. TCM practitioners can choose to establish a private or group practice, work in an integrative medical center or hospital, or become involved in TCM education, publishing or research.

There are currently over 12,000 students enrolled in over 50 Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) colleges with more than 22,500 licensed acupuncturists now practicing throughout the United States. This is a growing profession!

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