Monday, December 27, 2010

'Alternative health'-minded parents, take note.

If it's one thing to embrace a CAM mindset for yourself, it's another matter entirely when you inflict your unorthodox beliefs on your children. New research raises troubling questions for parents who indoctrinate their kids in the alt-med lifestyle.

By the way, if there was ever any doubt about the "treatment modalities" that fall under the CAM umbrella, take a look at the way the community's own lobbying arm within the federal health bureaucracy, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, describes the very remedies the agency was chartered to promote. (And make no mistake, NCCAM was a promotional boondoggle from the start, designed to validate the methods rather than objectively test them.) One after another, NCCAM's "endorsements" read like an SNL parody: an object lesson in damning with faint praise.

21 comments:

Dimension Skipper said...

Steve, Have you seen this yet? NCCAM is funding worthwhile¹ studies that no one else will fund...

Evidence that placebos could work even if you tell people they’re taking placebos
By Ed Young for Discover (Dec 22, 2010)

"We did this study on a shoe-string," says Kaptchuk. "No one would fund a study that was going to tell patients that they were going to get placebo." In the end, funding came from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. While they have a somewhat murky track record² in terms of the science they fund, no one I spoke to criticised the design of this trial.
__________

¹ I'm being more than a little tongue-in-cheeky here, although I admit to at least some fascination with the mere concept of the study.

² This link is actually part of the quoted section from the original, not something I just randomly added.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip, hadn't seen it, but you see, tongue-in-cheek or no, such a study is a good fit with NCCAM's agenda, because they realize that they may eventually be put in the position of arguing more or less as follows: "Oh yeah? Well even if CAM therapies are medically worthless, our research shows that if you give patients a worthless treatment, they may end up feeling better anyway. So we should keep CAM around for that reason alone."

Of course, that "logic" ignores the obvious and inescapable truth that if you're actually going to treat people with placebos...why do you need to do it via CAM therapies, which tend to be pretty expensive, pound for pound? You might as well give patients a (literal) sugar pill or a tiny piece of a Milky Way, no?

Anonymous said...

Good work here, Steve. The gravitation towards CAM even on the part of major hospital systems is a national disgrace.

Dimension Skipper said...

Technically, nothing to do with alternative health and parenting, but sounds like a victory for Australian skeptics when it comes to those magical wrist band thingies...

Power Balance ordered to remove misleading statements
Phil Plait for Discover

a/good/lysstener said...

I don't understand why people need to find or devise all these new ways of treating illness when there are so many proven ways. That probably sounds like a lame statement, but what I mean is, where does that compulsion come from, to search for remedies that are unproven and in many ways weird? It seems there are so many people today who want to embrace something different simply because it's different, and for no other reason.

RevRon's Rants said...

"It seems there are so many people today who want to embrace something different simply because it's different, and for no other reason."

Hell, Alyssa... It's that very inclination that has kept me in relationships all my life! :-)

roger o'keefe said...

Alyssa, some people just want and need to do everything differently from the way most sane people do it. I don't know if there's a more intelligent or accurate answer than that. The question just begs another question.

I like your outfit by the way. I must say, it looks like a modeling shot. Are you in that line these days? My lord, you certainly could be!

a/good/lysstener said...

LOL, Roger, you are too sweet. No, that's just a concept shot, as my artsy friend calls it. She superimposed me over a background with this software she has that's like photoshop. I have gotten some very nice feedback, though, and I am ever appreciative!

roger o'keefe said...

I think I probably speak for all when I say we're appreciative too, Alyssa!

Steve Salerno said...

[ED.NOTE: Has anyone here ever considered match.com or eharmony...?]

Cosmic Connie said...

Roger, are you operating under the assumption that "all of us here" are a homogeneous group of concupiscent hetero males? For my part, I think Alyssa is adorable, but I feel more inclined to protect her than slobber over her. No offense intended to any slobberers.

And Alyssa, I think you did make a good point about the possibility that some people are driven by a need for novelty, a desire for rebellion, or simply an urge to be on the "cutting edge." I am sure these are contributing factors for some who are drawn to new (or ancient) health remedies. And for many, alt-health is part of the package deal of being a New-Wage believer or guru. Just look at some of Joe Vitale's past blog posts or tweets. He's always doing Reiki this, or Ayurvedic that, and so forth (though he didn't hesitate to resort to good old Western medicine when he had a ruptured appendix). And his sweetie Nerissa really has the red-ass for the medical profession. Of course they've both been encouraged in this direction by their friend, noted medical expert Kevin True-dough.

On the other hand, though some alt-health remedies can be pricey, they're still less expensive in many cases than conventional medical treatment. And sometimes people get desperate. Medical attention, especially in the US, is increasingly a luxury item, reserved for those who have insurance or lots of money or both. Those of us who have neither are more likely to at least take a second look at some herbal or vitamin supplements. (This is not a disguised pitch for the recently passed Obama health care plan; it is just an acknowledgment of reality.)

I realize I digressed somewhat from the main topic of this post, so I'll bring it back: The people who really suffer the most in any health-care quandary are those who have little or no choice in the matter -- children.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, the question of how one elects to raise one's kids is a touchy area, of course. We hear more and more complaints about nanny-state-ism, and I too am frustrated, sometimes troubled, by constant gov't meddling in areas that used to be considered "family matters." OTOH, this is a case where the gov't has actively weighed in...on the wrong side, by funding and maintaining NCCAM. At the very least, in my view, the gov't has abdicated its responsibility to take a stand on behalf of science-based medicine.

If you really examine the history of NCCAM--the forces that set that agency in motion (originally as the OAC, or Office of Alternative Medicine), and the founding premises behind those forces--it's a pretty sad story of (a) lobbying abuse and (b) the personal biases of a (very) few being enforced on the many.

roger o'keefe said...

Connie, I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to say in response to your uncalled for attack. I do know that I am shocked and deeply offended by both the tone and implications of what you wrote.

So we can't even pay a pretty girl a compliment anymore without being called a pedophile? I admit I had to look up that word you used. I can only conclude you must picture me sitting here salivating, maybe even touching myself as I type! You really have a lot of nerve, especially since the subject of your ire who apparently needs to be "protected" from me, didn't mind at all and described my remarks as "sweet". I am embarrassed for her that I even have to say these things.

I think you owe me an apology, and you probably owe one to Alyssa as well.

Steve Salerno said...

OK.

Before we go any farther down this path...

I felt that I owed Roger his reply, inasmuch as I took at least a gentle swipe at him with my allusion to match.com, and then Connie was...a bit less gentle. And I hate to enforce policies on this blog that are in any way analogous to workplace policies against sexual harassment, hostile environment, etc. We're a community-of sorts here, yes, and we're also humans beings, but we're far-flung, and we don't really know each other's hearts and minds, and these are always touchy areas. Especially in today's climate, these things can be easily misconstrued. So for now, I would like to put an end to this particular line of comment and, one hopes, nudge us back toward the nominal subject matter of this post. In the future I would simply urge people to remember that a lot of us are made uncomfortable by "banter" that drifts into the regions we've witnessed during this thread. I don't know how else to say it, but I hope that suffices.

Finally, if any of us ever wants to get in touch with any other of us for personal reasons, I would request that such communication take place off the blog. Nuff said?

a/good/lysstener said...

I asked Steve if I could be allowed to have a "last word" here inasmuch as I appear to be the unwitting cause of the finger pointing. Leaving aside the specifics of what was said here by whom, I do think this underscores how difficult it is to be an attractive woman today and to be taken seriously. I hope I can be forgiven saying that without people thinking I'm some snobby bitch. In one way it's a shame a pretty girl can't just be an anonymous face in the crowd, especially on an entity like a blog where you're supposed to be judged by the value of your words, as Steve likes to say. So there's that. In another way I don't want to be penalized for being pretty either, and I almost get that sense here. It's like I need special "looking out for" or that a compliment directed my way is necessarily cluttered with all these dirty overtones. If someone said Connie looked nice or Jenny looked nice or LisaJane or any of the other female contributors, is that suppose to mean something evil? Also, while I appreciate Connie's motherly sentiments, I don't understand why an older man can't think a younger woman is pretty and we can't let it go at that. There are older men I find extremely attractive. That doesn't mean I'm damaged or have a psychological complex any more than it means there's something wrong with an older man who finds me or any other younger woman attractive.

I've also gotten emails that say things like "if you don't want comments about your appearance then don't have a photo or pose provocatively!" What's that suppose to mean? I guess you have to be ordinary-looking in order to show a photo or else once again it's a character flaw and you should expect to be called names. Do Connie or Jenny or Lisa NOT care about looking nice? I don't believe it. They DO look nice. What's the big deal?

Anyway, it's a shame looks always have to complicate things.

Steve Salerno said...

To all those who've tried to comment post-Alyssa:

I apologize for my heavy-handed tactic of simply killing off comments. (That applies to at least a half-dozen so far, from various contributors.) I hope this tactic on my part doesn't cause any defections or lasting enmities, but I think we've spent enough time dissecting and discussing Rogalyssa (as the Hollywood crowd might nickname it). And in each of those now-defunct comments, there was a line or two that would've rightfully invited further comment from one of the other parties, and so on ad nauseam (sp?)

I would greatly appreciate it if at this point we could move on and discuss the actual post, or if not that, something tangentially related to SHAMblog itself, rather than any resident personalities.

Sorry. I do the best I can at making these determinations.

Steve Salerno said...

Again, I want to apologize to those of you who felt that I pulled the plug on this discussion before giving you a chance to find "rhetorical closure." I ask you to trust my instincts here; I am fairly certain that allowing existing contributors to fortify their positions--and especially admitting new people to the fray--would have in no way provided closure. For anyone. It would only have inflamed the situation.

Then again, I thought the Eagles were a lock to beat the Vikes last night, so who knows.

RevRon's Rants said...

Penance acknowledged and accepted, my son. Go and sin no more. :-)

At least the Texans are dependable, and can be relied upon to show up by halftime (but to lose, nonetheless!).

Dimension Skipper said...

Sort of heading back to the topic at hand (though not specifically with re to parenting)....

Which Celebrities Are Science-Illiterate Whack Jobs? Find Out Here
by Jennifer Welsh for Discover (Dec 29)
...pointing out the UK's Sense About Science's celeb science report (in PDF, which the site seems to rely heavily upon).

Nothing earth shattering really, but still the sort of year-end chucklefest that's fun to point at and make fun of.

And to be fair, in some cases I don't think that some celebs are necessarily science whack jobs so much as greedy endorsers handed gobs of money for something that they perceive as "What harm could it do?"

Right now I'm browsing around the SAS website myself, finding things like...

The last ten years has seen a rise in use of the internet and patient chat-rooms and forums for people with chronic diseases. These offer valuable support, but have also brought masses of advertising, surreptitious promotion and misleading stories. Today patient charities, doctors and scientists are warning people with long-term incurable conditions about the emotional and financial costs of over-hyped treatment claims that sell false hope.

Online adverts and chat-room conversations testify to the ‘incredible’ benefits of new medicines and treatments selling the empty promise of curing the incurable. But the evidence for many treatment claims is unreliable and patients’ yearning for improvement is being exploited. Whilst people must be left to make up their own minds about what treatments to use, doctors and scientists are critical of those who aggressively market - with misleading claims, optimistic testimonials and even pseudo science - to people who are desperate for some source of hope. Leaving them unsure about what to try and uncertain where to draw the line.


At any rate, perhaps folks 'round here may be mostly aware of it already (though I don't recall anyone ever pointing it out), but I'd never encountered the Sense About Science site and it looks like it could be of some interest, especially with re to general alternative medicine skepticism and debunking (PDF).

Myna said...

Perhaps people turn to Integrative medicine in lieu of having a blood vessel explode in their head as a side effect of this or that prescription medication. This is not to advance or dismiss the notion of alternative health practices, just a thought on perhaps why some are taking a serious second look. I don't think the question is as simple as Alternative=balderdash, Eli Lily=salvation.

In following the CAM link, I do not consider Dr. Andrew Weil a New Age hack, but do concede there are many who are. The danger is always in those who read a book or attend a weekend seminar and think they now hold some vast medical knowledge---or those who make a mint in marketing themselves as one who holds it.

Steve Salerno said...

Myna: I believe that positions such as yours are thoughtful and well-advised, especially considering the litany of disastrous potential side effects that drug makers in particular are now compelled to disclose under federal guidelines. My argument reduces to this: I'd rather try a health regimen that has withstood at least some due diligence and clinical validation than try a nostrum that some quack made up out of whole cloth (or that has "been in use for thousands of years" but never been demonstrated effective under any clinical conditions). As one who has studied the psychology of the self-help realm, I also think the argument that "traditional medicine doesn't have all the answers"--while true--is a very dangerous argument in the wrong hands, as it is often twisted to "justify" almost anything that constitutes non-traditional medicine.

It's true that "allopathic" medicine is a mixed bag of benefits and side effects. But can anyone demonstrate that so-called "alternative medicine" has any reliable benefits at all? Why not inform the people--honestly inform them--and let the chips fall where they may?