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July, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 07

Final Report Released from National Policy Dialogue to Advance Integrated Health Care

By Editorial Staff

The final report of the "National Policy Dialogue to Advance Integrated Health Care: Finding Common Ground'' was recently completed and distributed to members of Congress, think tanks, federal agencies and others.

Massage Today Editor Cliff Korn was a participant in the original dialogue, which took place last November at Georgetown University. (Editor's note: See "Massage Today Represented at National Policy Dialogue," in the December 2001 issue.) The report is designed to help focus the health care debate in the next millenium.

Participants represented over 50 stakeholder organizations with an interest in, or commitment to, the advancement of integrated health care. As representatives of consumers and practitioners, educational institutions and industries, the panel agreed it was important to promote national policies that facilitate research; promote appropriate standards for professions and products; increase consumer access to complementary and alternative therapies; and create a truly integrated health care system. They also agreed that a coordinated national effort is needed to ensure that the American public benefits from advancements in the science and understanding of all health care systems, disciplines and modalities. The dialogue participants carefully reviewed the status of existing public and private initiatives and funding, then debated what an integrated health care system would look like, how to achieve it through a defined national policy framework, and how to evaluate it.

Participants worked in general session and in seven separate issue-oriented working groups to develop core recommendations -- many for federal policy changes -- in areas such as education; service to the underserved; access; regulation; research; quality of care; public health; and federal benefits.

Common-ground recommendations developed and reported in the final report include:

  1. Establish a federal office to foster the creation of an integrated health care (IHC) system focused on health promotion and disease prevention.
  2. Significantly increase federal research allocations for health promotion and disease prevention, and examine the role of Complementary and Alternative (CAM)/integrated approaches in these areas.
  3. Establish a consortium of conventional and CAM educators and practitioners.
  4. Assure widespread access to CAM/IHC in rural and underserved communities.
  5. Achieve regulatory recognition for each profession seeking it, in every state and within federal programs, based on competency standards set by the profession.
  6. Develop a national agency that acts as a clearinghouse for defining the qualifications and scope of practice for health care providers in each discipline, system or modality.
  7. Ensure that CAM is effectively integrated into the Health People 2020 development and implementation process.

Four dominant themes emerged in the National Policy Dialogue. The consensus was that all four are critical for the development of a clinically effective, economically viable integrated health care system:

  1. federal leadership, organization and oversight;
  2. ongoing collaboration among conventional and CAM professionals at every level -- education, research, delivery of care, regulatory activities, and reimbursement;
  3. equality of patient access to the full range of practitioners; and
  4. health promotion as a priority in our health care system.

It should be obvious that there is a substantial interconnection between the large component goals that make up the core themes of the final report. As example, equality of access for patients is predicated upon ready availability of qualified providers, relatively uniform national minimum standards of education and practice, an informed public, and reasonably consistent reimbursement models. Obviously this will not be an easy task.

The complete text of the final report is available by clicking here.


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