A growing body of research evidence shows that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has health benefits for US military veterans and active duty personnel, according to an article co-authored by a BU School of Public Health researcher, who also is a guest editor of a special December supplement to the journal Medical Care.
In presenting 14 new studies on CAM therapies, A. Rani Elwy, assistant professor of health policy and management at BUSPH, and Stephanie L. Taylor of the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System said the recent research represents “promising steps to improve the health of veterans and active military personnel.” They cite statistics showing that CAM programs are now offered at nearly 90 percent of VA medical facilities.
Elwy, a researcher with the Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research at Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, and Taylor write that “the evidence base” for alternative medicine is growing. Over 200 systematic reviews have been conducted on various CAM modalities’ effectiveness for chronic pain, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression — common conditions among veterans and military members. Many of those reviews have concluded that CAM therapies are moderately effective for such conditions, although some studies’ methodological limitations mitigate significant findings, Elwy and Taylor said.
Highlights of the recent research include studies reporting benefits of specific types of meditation practices, including one study that found that a mindfulness-based intervention reduced depression and improved psychological wellbeing in veterans with PTSD. Another report showed beneficial effects of acupuncture for veterans with PTSD.
One study, led by Elwy, found that meditation and acupuncture were among the most frequently offered and studied mind and body practices. The study recommends that future research should include yoga, which is currently understudied, and that the quality of future studies should be improved.
While the studies in the special issue show progress, Elwy and Taylor stressed the need for additional rigorous research to better understand CAM’s potential in military populations. They said a “relatively low level of funding available for CAM research” is limiting progress, and they called for more funding to be directed to alternative and complementary therapies, within the National Institutes of Health and across other agencies and private foundations.
The supplement is available at: http://journals.lww.com/lww-medicalcare/toc/2014/12001
Submitted by: Lisa Chedekel