Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.
Integrative medicine is grounded in the definition of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” 1
Integrative medicine seeks to restore and maintain health and wellness across a person’s lifespan by understanding the patient’s unique set of circumstances and addressing the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health. 2 Through personalizing care, integrative medicine goes beyond the treatment of symptoms to address all the causes of an illness. In doing so, the patient’s immediate health needs as well as the effects of the long-term and complex interplay between biological, behavioral, psychosocial and environmental influences are taken into account. 3
Integrative medicine is not the same as alternative medicine, which refers to an approach to healing that is utilized in place of conventional therapies, or complementary medicine, which refers to healing modalities that are used to complement allopathic approaches. If the defining principles are applied, care can be integrative regardless of which modalities are utilized.
The defining principles of integrative medicine are:
- The patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
- All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration, including body, mind, spirit and community.
- Providers use all healing sciences to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
- Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.
- Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry driven and open to new paradigms.
- Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
- The care is personalized to best address the individual’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances. Practitioners of integrative medicine exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.
In addition to addressing and handling the immediate health problem(s) as well as the deeper causes of the disease or illness, integrative medicine strategies also focus on prevention and foster the development of healthy behaviors and skills for effective self-care that patients can use throughout their lives. 4
- Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19–22 June 1946; signed on 22 July 1947 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100); and entered into force on 7 April 1948. Constitution of the World Health Organization — Basic Documents, Forty-fifth edition, Supplement, October 2006.
- http://iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Quality/ IntegrativeMed/SnydermanRalph.pdf
- Vicki Weisfeld. (2009). Summit on Integrative Medicine & The Health of the Public: Issue Background and Overview. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine. Retrieval2011-1-18. http://www.bravewell.org/integrative_medicine/
- Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.http://www.bravewell.org/integrative_medicine/.