Complementary and alternative medicine: The move into mainstream health care

K. O'brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Australia is extensive with over 50 per cent of the Australian population using some form of complementary medicine and almost 25 per cent of Australians visiting CAM practitioners. Expenditure on CAM by Australians is significant. The scope of CAM is extremely broad and ranges from complete medical systems such as Chinese medicine to well-known therapies, such as massage and little known therapies, such as pranic healing. There is a growing focus on CAM in Australia and worldwide by a range of stakeholders including government, the World Health Organization, western medical practitioners and private health insurance companies. CAM practices may offer the potential for substantial public health gains and challenge the way that we view human beings, health and illness. Several issues are emerging that need to be addressed. They include safety and quality control of complementary medicines, issues related to integration of CAM with western medicine and standards of practice. The evidence base of forms of CAM varies considerably: some forms of CAM have developed systematically over thousands of years while others have developed much more recently and have a less convincing evidence base. Many forms of CAM are now being investigated using scientific research methodology and there are increasing examples of good research. Certain forms of CAM, including Chinese medicine in which ophthalmology is an area of clinical speciality, view the eye in a unique way. It is important to keep an open mind about CAM and give proper scrutiny to new evidence as it emerges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-120
Number of pages11
JournalClinical and Experimental Optometry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Alternative medicine
  • Chinese medicine
  • Complementary medicine
  • alternative medicine
  • article
  • Australia
  • evidence based medicine
  • health personnel attitude
  • human
  • ophthalmology
  • primary health care
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Ophthalmology
  • Primary Health Care


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