What is Integrative Health?
Integrative health combines conventional (e.g., chemotherapy for cancer) and complementary (e.g., mindfulness meditation for chronic pain) approaches that are informed by scientific evidence. As a topic of public interest and increasing media attention, the Integrative Health Institute is often asked: what do we recommend for patients? With many natural health products and complementary and traditional practices, scientific knowledge in these areas is rapidly expanding. With such tremendous diversity, it is not possible to provide specific guidance on potential risks and benefits of particular treatments (conventional, complementary, or traditional) for all patients; this is the practice of healthcare and is best left to qualified healthcare providers. To help those seeking guidance on integrative health options, we describe the context for why we think these conversations are important, and offer some resources to facilitate decision-making.
The Integrative Health Institute
IHI was established at the University of Alberta in 2014 and has partnerships with the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, and Alberta Health Services. Our common interest is scholarship (research and education) to inform health policy and practice.
One of our goals is to promote the development and sharing of best available evidence in order to assist with healthcare decisions between patients and their healthcare providers. IHI does not operate a clinic or offer medical advice/care to individual patients.
Why is it important to talk about Integrative Health?
There are no absolutes in health care: any health product or practice (conventional, complementary, traditional or alternative) can be helpful or harmful. IHI encourages patients to talk to their healthcare providers about all products and practices that they are using, or considering using, to manage their health. We recognize that evidence-based care is a triad of (i) best available evidence (which is constantly evolving); (ii) clinical experience (which differs between clinicians); and (iii) patient preference (which differs between patients). As such, healthcare decision-making can be complex, and even confusing, especially when conflicting advice is encountered from various sources. We recognize that patients are the ultimate decision-makers in their own care, and that their healthcare providers offer trusted relationships and expertise that are highly valued.
To encourage open discussions about healthcare options, the following resources may be useful and can be shared freely:
- a guide to evaluating the credibility of online health information
- a list of evidence-based integrative health resources for patients and for healthcare professionals
Patients are seeking ways to engage actively in their own health and well-being, and models of care are evolving. By supporting informed choices and the needs of patients and clinicians, it is our vision to achieve optimal health and well-being for all.
Evaluating Health Information on the Web
Answering these questions will help you evaluate the information you find on the internet.
Accuracy: Who provides the information on the site? What are their qualifications/credentials? Can you contact them? Is there an "About Us" section (describes who is running the site)?
Authority: Where is the information coming from? Is there evidence (i.e., references from medical journals) for the claims being made?
Objectivity: What are the goals of the site? Is it selling something? Or is it providing current evidence-based information?
Currency: When was the site/page last updated (date should be at the end of each article)? How current is the information provided?
Coverage: Is the information presented cited correctly? If there are links to other websites, what kind of sites do they lead to?
If you cannot find the answers to these questions, it might be an indication that the site is not providing good information.