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Modern Western Biomedicine and CAM


The contemporary healthcare system allows using various types of treatment approaches. Thus, people can decide whether to choose modern western biomedicine (WBM), or the traditional approach, or complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) - the unconventional one). Both types of healthcare approaches have their benefits and drawbacks, which can significantly influence the future of any population from the perspective of health. Since an unambiguous choice could be difficult to make because of the variety of options, the integrative approach combining both healthcare methods might be the best solution in the long term.

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The Comparison of WBM and CAM: Advantages and Disadvantages

Pros of WBM as Compared to CAM

The benefits of WBM are numerous for the majority of people.

First, empirical research and evidence-based studies confirm the efficiency of this approach and state that scientists have successfully curbed tuberculosis and cardiovascular diseases among others due to biomedicine development after the “antibiotic era” (Quirke & Gaudilliere, 2008, p. 442). Scientific evidence leads to the second benefit – the trustworthiness of the biomedical approach for many people. On the contrary, many people do not consider CAM a reliable and valid healthcare approach because of the lack of scientific evidence and empirical research.

Third, in contrast to alternative medicine, traditional Western medicine exhibits its results more clearly and dramatically, with the greatest outcome demonstrated by traditional medicine is its successful fight against infectious diseases (Quirke & Gaudilliere, 2008). Since CAM deals mostly with the prevention of some health conditions, people are not likely to become seriously ill, but the influence of CAM is more elusive because of the lack of science-based evidence.

Fourth, biomedicine is more accessible because public healthcare promotes this approach and targets the population of the country through screening and immunization. In regards to CAM, it does not have such a wide public and governmental support, but it rather rests on the individual treatment basis. Moreover, certain risks are inherent in CAM, which adds to the disadvantages of this approach.

As Ijaz, Boon, Muzzin, and Welsh (2016) argue, despite the fact that the government attempts to reduce potential risks, they are unavoidable. For example, lung punctures may occur during the acupuncture sessions (Janz & Adams, 2011). Fifth, the governmental and public support create competition in the medical realm, and this causes “power imbalance” and biased attitudes between traditional healthcare practitioners and their CAM colleagues towards each other (Josyula et al., 2016).

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Cons of WBM as Contrasted to CAM

However, certain drawbacks prevent WBM proponents from speaking out. First, traditional medicine loses its efficiency when treating illnesses with antibiotics (Ventola, 2015). This issue has often been raised nowadays since drug-resistant bacteria appear because of the unsupervised use of antibiotics (Ventola, 2015). Thus, adverse cells in human bodies get used to antibiotics and manage to survive. In this situation, the prevention of the development of harmful cells in the body obtains the highest priority. Due to this, alternative medicine, which deals exactly with the prevention, has become considerably popular among many people.

Second, CAM has gained particular popularity among those who care about their health and believe in prevention rather than treatment. Some countries have tried to integrate CAM into the governmental healthcare system along with the existing traditional biomedicine (Josyula et al., 2016). This integration is especially pertinent in the situation with developing countries, where the population is not accustomed to accepting the advances of western healthcare or is deprived of such an opportunity. India has become one of such examples since it aims at increasing the access of the population to healthcare through the strategy of AYUSH – “Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy” (Josyula et al., 2016).

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Third, the inclusion of CAM into the public healthcare system contends with the lack of doctors in India. Therefore, CAM practitioners ensure the reduction of the patient load, thus helping their colleagues from biomedicine (Josyula et al., 2016).

Fourth, the alternative approach offers the all-embracing perspective of an individual and his/her health. While WBM targets the cause and the symptoms of a disease, CAM focuses on the human body as the system of equally important interrelated elements.

Fifth, some people may oppose certain traditional biomedical methods, such as immunization or screening, because of their intrusive approach and even aggressive promotion. Healthcare providers tend to perform vaccination on a mass basis, and this puts significant pressure on those people who have not decided whether to immunize or not.

Therefore, both types of healthcare can be efficient. However, Hollenberg (2006), based on his study of acupuncture in Canada, believes that the integrative approach is the most appropriate one. The greatest challenge is that both WBM and CAM have existed separately and have been self-sufficing for a long time, so integration may be time-consuming and it could require considerable effort.

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The comparison of traditional biomedicine and complementary and alternative medicine demonstrates that both types of healthcare have their advantages and disadvantages. While biomedicine proves its efficiency through the dramatic outcomes of curing some severe illnesses, it also has particular issues related to the use of antibiotics and their potential inactivity. On the other hand, complementary and alternative medicine exhibits positive results in individual cases that rarely rest on scientific evidence. However, public healthcare nowadays is likely to benefit from the integrative approach to health provision. In this light, a reasonable combination of biomedicine and alternative medicine can have positive implications for the future of public health.

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