CAMbrella – Communication Platform on topics related to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in Europe

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EU citizens need equal access to CAM health services, reads one of the conclusions, when members of CAMbrella met with stakeholders from across the EU to explore citizens’ needs and attitudes towards CAM. Besides, it was concluded that citizens need independent, reliable and easily accessible information about CAM – based on the strength of available evidence – in order to make informed decisions. The third important point was the need for quality of care – regarding services, practitioners and products. The workshop, which took place on June 24 and 25, 2010, was organized by CAMbrella Work Package 3 (WP3) and hosted by GAMED (Wiener Internationale Akademie für Ganzheitsmedizin – International Academy for Integrative Medicine). GAMED is situated on the premises of Otto-Wagner-Spital on the outskirts of Vienna, thus providing for very special surroundings. To reflect the diversity of EU countries, WP3 had invited experts from Denmark, Croatia, Latvia, and Italy (Tuscany), complementing the WP3 partners, who are based in Denmark, Germany, Austria and France. The invited experts also represented the diverse organisations with concerns and interests in CAM, such as academia, a non-governmental organisation, a CAM practitioner umbrella organisation and a public health service with some CAM integration. Leader of the workshop was Helle Johannessen, University of Southern Denmark.

Lively discussions

On the first day, the 11 participants from all over Europe met for shared lunch, after which Susanne Schunder-Tatzber, member of GAMED and WP3, opened the workshop, which had three key aims: To identify how to explore EU citizens’ needs and attitudes towards CAM To facilitate the sharing of relevant sources of information about CAM that exist across the EU To help identify how citizens’ needs and attitudes to CAM can be measured and compared across the many EU countries. After a brief outline of CAMbrella and the specific tasks and aims of WP3, the group set to work and straightforwardly entered into lively discussions, discussing different understandings of the key terms ’citizen’, ’needs’ and ’attitudes’, and stressing, for the first but not the last time, the need for shared definitions. Later, the consumer perspective was addressed. Based on her experience as a policy advisor to the Danish Consumer Council, Sine Jensen contextualised CAM consumer needs within the wider field of consumer demands and needs. Safety issues emerged as the most prominent area, with possible solutions including legislation to prevent harm, consumer information and consumer guides, as well as more EU wide research and EU wide inspections. As a close to the busy day, the participants met for dinner in a restaurant in the centre of Vienna and used the opportunity to engage in further discussions on various aspects of their respective fields of work.

Collaboration needed

On the second day, the situation of CAM in individual EU countries was presented, showing the differences between the countries. Vija Sile, Professor of Bioethics at Riga Stradins University, provided an overview of CAM in Latvia, elaborating on aspects such as cultural heritage, modern history, legal status, professional and educational context, as well as available statistics on citizens’ needs and attitudes. She concluded that while there is currently little collaboration between biomedical and CAM practitioners in Latvia, patients would certainly benefit from such collaboration. An example of integration was presented by the Italian participants. On behalf of the Tuscan General Directorate of Health, Elio Rossi, and Sonia Baccetti from the Tuscany Network for Integrative Medicine provided information on the legal situation of CAM practice in Tuscany. Relying on the results of an as yet unpublished survey conducted in the Tuscan region – where complementary medicine is integrated in the public health system – they also presented information on the use of CAM, citizens’ attitudes towards and citizens’ needs regarding CAM. Eventually, the group split up in two parts to brainstorm on the workshop’s remaining aims. Among other issues, the need for a common language with shared definitions was stressed, showing a strong dependency on the CAMbrella Work Package 1 (terminology and definitions). After the workshop some of the attendants explored a unique example of architecture designed to “fulfill citizens’ needs”: Susanne Schunder-Tatzber had arranged for a tour around the hospital premises, including the church ’Kirche am Steinhof’, a masterpiece of Art Nouveau. Text: Helle Johannesen, Jesper Madsen, Monika Schagerl Kirche am Steinhof (Church of St. Leopold), built in 1903-1907 by the architect Otto Wagner.