Another survey shows naturopathic students are anti-vaccination, but "integrative medicine" wants NDs on your MD's "team" anyway

Another survey shows naturopathic students are anti-vaccination, but "integrative medicine" wants  NDs on your MD's "team" anyway

An Oral Abstract presented at the International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health tells us, once again, that naturopathic students are anti-vaccination. (The Abstract is Number OA08.02, on page A13.) A cross-sectional survey of 1204 students at National College of Natural Medicine, Bastyr University, and the University of Bridgeport, in November, 2015, asked students about their sources of information on vaccines, differences between mainstream and CAM education on vaccines, as well as beliefs about alternative vaccination schedules, adverse effects, perceived efficacy, credibility of information sources, and future practices. Unfortunately, few details about the responses are provided.

We do know there was a very low response rate: only 20.1%.We don't know whether this has anything to do with the reluctance on the part of organized naturopathy to keep this sort of messy detail about naturopathic beliefs out of the public eye, especially in light of their current licensing efforts in a number of states. In a recent STAT article on their supplement industry- funded lobbying efforts, the Executive Director of the the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians would say only that the AANP was "discussing its stance on vaccinations."

Here's what the 242 students who did respond had to say, at least insofar as this Abstract reported the details:

  • 73% planned on regularly or "occasionally" prescribing or recommending vaccinations for their patients
  • 77% supported the "general concept" of vaccination for infectious diseases
  • 73% would recommend a schedule different from the current CDC-ACIP [Centers for Disease Control-Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices] schedule

This survey confirms what others have found.  Children seeing a naturopath for their health care were significantly more likely not to have the necessary childhood vaccinations to protect them from measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and influenza. Not surprisingly, children actually suffered from some of these diseases more frequently if they saw a naturopath. We also know from a previous survey that this animosity toward immunization is prevalent among naturopathic students attending accredited naturopathic schools and that it increases as the student moves toward graduation. We know, as well, that naturopaths invent dubious remedies for imaginary health risks due to vaccination.

The Abstract reported these concerns among the students:

  • 84%: Vaccine adjuvants and preservatives
  • 83%: Administration of too many vaccines at one time

Are these reasonable concerns? If that is the case, the CDC-ACIP schedules have taken them into account in creating the schedule.Otherwise, one would have to believe that the naturopaths have looked at the research and come to a conclusion that is more convincing, based on the evidence, than that of the CDC and the ACIP. Did these respected scientific authorities miss something? Do naturopathic school students know something they don't?

On the one hand, these issues have been extensively researched and the overwhelming evidence from responsible medical sources is that vaccine adjuvants, preservatives and the current vaccine schedule are safe for children.

That is not to say there are no risks, but the benefits of vaccinating far outweigh the potentially serious consequences of contracting diseases like meningitis, hepatitis, cervical cancer and whooping cough, among others, when vaccination is skipped or delayed. There is also the risk that your child will spread these diseases to other children who are not vaccinated for various reasons, including children who have compromised immune systems and can't be immunized. In fact, a delay in vaccinating can actually increase the risk of a rare adverse effect of vaccines.

Conversely, I could find no research published in a respected, peer-reviewed scientific or medical journal supporting the naturopathic students' concerns about adjuvants, preservatives or the CDC-ACIP schedules. Indeed, one wonders why, if these are valid concerns, no naturopath (or anyone else) has published their research for the benefit of society.

What is it then? Why do the students ignore the evidence? Perhaps because science and evidence are of only secondary importance to naturopaths. What matters most to them is naturopathic "philosophy." (You can see much more of this "philosophy" in action, including information about their anti-vaccination ideology and naturopathic students' education and training, on Naturopathic Diaries.) Naturopaths feel free to accept or reject evidence of safety and efficacy, or lack thereof, if it conflicts with their philosophy, no matter what the consequences to their patients or to public health.Historically, naturopaths have always been opposed to immunization on philosophical grounds, hence their current stance.

Despite the risk to public health posed by naturopathic practices, and despite their elevation of "philosophy" over evidence, an ideological movement in medicine, known as "integrative medicine," wants to make naturopaths part of your health care "team" for reasons yet to be coherently explained. The International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health, held in May, at which this Oral Abstract was presented, is part and parcel of this effort. It was "convened" by the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health (ACIMH), a group of "integrative" programs at academic medical centers.The Congress was put on in association with an organization of naturopathic, chiropractic, homeopathic and ayurvedic schools, among others who subscribe to the integrative ideology.

The event was sponsored by your taxpayer dollars, in the form of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, as well as Metagenics, Thorne Research and Emerson Ecologics, all of whom have a history of supporting naturopathic organizations and their push to become licensed as primary care physicians in all states. These companies sell dietary supplements, homeopathic remedies and dubious diagnostic tests, all products used, or sold for profit, by naturopaths in their daily practice.

One of the ACIMH's latest efforts is the National Center for Integrative Primary Health care, a pilot program, again funded by taxpayers, which will become a required part of medical education if all goes as planned. As I said in my SBM post on the subject:

"medical education, at least in the eyes of ACIMH, has gone beyond merely teaching medical students about various CAM practices so they know what is out there. In ACIMH's view, primary care (including pediatrics) now includes a 'collaboration' between physicians and naturopaths, chiropractors and acupuncturists. These are seen as 'primary care disciplines' with which medical residents will share '10 'meta-competencies'' developed 'through a collaborative process' with CAM providers, who are 'team members.'"

It is a wonder that this Oral Abstract was presented at the Congress at all, considering the ACIMH's relentless boosterism for including naturopaths and other CAM providers in the medical fold, all the while ignoring the collateral damage of this support for pseudoscience. If you peruse the other abstracts (both Oral and Poster), you'll find plenty of them promote this "inclusiveness" and you'll see precious few that do not find a positive result for this or that CAM treatment, plus a healthy dose of "more research is needed."

Fortunately, we now have a patient's view of "integrative medicine" to counter this sunny optimism about the "potential" (it's always "potential," never actually realized) of its supposed benefits.Today, on SBM, there is a post by Jesse Luke, a cancer patient who has seen "integrative medicine" up close and in person. It's not so pretty as the integrative medicine ideologues would have you believe.

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