You may ask, where does naturopathic medicine fit into the health care system? The answer is easy ... in the mainstream! Despite pockets of skepticism and hesitation from those unfamiliar with what naturopathic medicine has to offer, the vast majority of Canadians use some form of naturopathic or alternative medicine. No longer will Canadians believe the rhetoric that naturopathic medicine is some kind of voodoo. People are coming to realize health requires a proactive attitude and that naturopathic physicians represent a resource for health preservation, recovery and optimal management of chronic conditions.
As highly trained professionals, naturopathic physicians undergo “at least three years of pre-medical training followed by four years of full-time study at an accredited naturopathic college” (Dr. Kind, 2011 letter to the editor, Times Colonist). NDs are licensed by the province and acquire continuing education to stay abreast of cutting edge developments in the field.
It is no secret the health care system is not fiscally sustainable. Since disease prevention means substantial cost savings to the system, naturopathic medicine strides out in front of conventional allopathic models in this regard. Furthermore, with the rise in drug costs, naturopathic doctors can help people manage many chronic conditions without drugs. Considering many pharmaceutical interventions are intended for chronic conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, etc, NDs can offer non-pharmaceutical ways to improve modifiable risk factors that contribute to these diseases.
Because naturopathic medicine has an excellent track record, the profession is being hailed as a cornerstone in the safe and effective delivery of health care. The provincial and federal associations are working actively to ensure that NDs are recognized as experts in wellness and able to practice medicine to the extent of their training. Raising awareness through public relations, information on their website, and events like Naturopathic Medicine Week all prove to advance naturopathic medicine into the lives of every Canadian.
The movement away from disease-centred care to patient-centred care is one that naturopathic medicine supports. Individualized health promotion plans consider many aspects of a person and can foster a more complete health optimization. With an aging population, our current system is overburdened. By preventing chronic disease and managing conditions naturally, NDs will lighten the upcoming demands. Not only does this translate into cost savings but also means a better quality of life for Canadians overall.
Breaking new ground with the recent expansion to their scope of practice, B.C. NDs are providing the best in integrative medicine. Now with the ability to prescribe pharmaceutical medications, some NDs are better able to manage complex cases that require pharmaceutical intervention along with non-drug therapies. This change enhances the patients’ freedom to choose and participate in their own health care. Proactive prevention with a naturopathic physician’s guidance may increase the likelihood of avoiding some of the health care challenges that many of us will face as we age. The difference is in perceiving our health on a continuum rather than the healthy or sick dichotomy. This allows us to thoughtfully intervene while vitality is still high and usually results in solid positive outcomes.
Dr. Tara Macart owns Opti Balance Naturopathic Medicine in Qualicum Beach with her husband Jonathan.