What’s 4000 years old and still alive and kicking? Traditional Chinese medicine. It’s a form of complimentary or alternative medicine that should be better integrated into our modern medicine healthcare toolbox in the future to keep America’s reproductive age men healthy.
Why do I say this? Because I like to face facts. Currently, alternative medicine is used by about 48% of the U.S. population in general and by about 30% of male infertility patients. That means that just as many men are using alternative medicine than Western medicine.
Why is complimentary medicine gaining traction in America? For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is because of a perceived dissatisfaction with the doctor-patient relationship. It simply takes too long to see a doctor. And when the visit actually materializes, it lasts about as long as a cat on a hot tin roof. To me, this is a quiet but strong statement about how Western medicine is simply not meeting the needs of modern men.
Complimentary and alternative medicine includes acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and herbal medicine as well as combinations of these employed in traditional Chinese medicine. Although their approaches may differ, alternative medicine is generally perceived as having natural effectiveness, being safe and non-invasive, and addressing the holistic and spiritual dimensions of healing and treatment. Most importantly for men, it is philosophically “patient-centered” rather than provider-centered which leads to a more positive patient-practitioner relationship.
Understanding men as men (and not women or children) is a key first step in drawing them back into an enabling and therapeutic healthcare experience. It involves playing to their strengths and not their weaknesses. You know, the old empowerment idea. As trite as the old Chinese proverb is, complimentary and alternative medicine, unlike most of Western medicine, provides a better opportunity to teach men how to fish so that they can eat for a lifetime rather than give them fish so that they can eat for a day. It’s the much-needed secret sauce to men’s health.
True, traditional Chinese medicine and most other forms of alternative medicine lack the spirit of scientific inquiry, being based almost entirely on anecdotes and stories rather than controlled experiments. But scientific medicine has generally ignored the powerful mind-body interaction so crucial for true health wellness. So, although the language of each approach is different, they really share the same goals. With this belief, I have taken the steps that I can to help this integration happen on a national level.
Men are looking for more than what Western medicine offers—the facts are clear. We in healthcare need to respond to this need and offer a taste of the secret sauce during those precious few moments when men ask for more.