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What is "Integrative medicine"?

The current state of integrative medicine

1. Usage of various therapies

According to the Health Labour Sciences Research Grant from their 2010 “Research on State of Information Provision of Integrative medicine” (research led by Dr. Tsuguya Fukui, Director of St. Luke’s International Hospital), when asked about their use of complementary and alternative therapies provided by non-medical institutions, the most common answer among the general public (3178 respondents) was “have never used” such services.

Further, of those who responded that they “have used and are currently using” such services, the services most commonly used were, “supplements and health foods” (38.8%), “massage” (13%), and “Seitai” (10.4%). (Seitai is a form of Japanese therapy that incorporates elements of massage, and chiropractic.)

In addition, of the therapies that respondents had, “have previously used, but are not currently using,” “Seitai” (25.8%) ranked first, followed by “massage” (24.3%) and “acupuncture” (21.4%). (See Table 1)

Table 1: Experience with therapies provided by non-medical institutions

All answers Have used and are currently using Have previously used, but are not currently using Have never used I don’t know or remember
# of res-
ponses
% # of res-
ponses
% # of res-
ponses
% # of res-
ponses
% # of res-
ponses
%
Supplements
Health Foods
3,178 100.0 1,074 33.8 619 19.5 1,454 45.8 31 1.0
Massage *a 3,178 100.0 412 13.0 771 24.3 1,970 62.0 25 0.8
Seitai 3,178 100.0 331 10.4 821 25.8 2,003 63.0 23 0.7
Onsen therapy
(hot spring)
3,178 100.0 286 9.0 256 8.1 2,574 81.0 62 2.0
Aromatherapy 3,178 100.0 266 8.4 275 8.7 2,586 81.4 51 1.6
Chinese herbal
medicine*b
3,178 100.0 227 7.1 481 15.1 2,407 75.7 63 2.0
Acupuncture
/moxibustion
3,178 100.0 179 5.6 679 21.4 2,294 72.2 26 0.8
Yoga 3,178 100.0 169 5.3 329 10.4 2,629 82.7 51 1.6
Bonesetting
/osteopathy
3,178 100.0 144 4.5 582 18.3 2,384 75.0 68 2.1
Chiropractic 3,178 100.0 142 4.5 474 14.9 2,513 79.1 49 1.5
Magnet therapy 3,178 100.0 124 3.9 293 9.2 2,683 84.4 78 2.5
Forest therapy 3,178 100.0 103 3.2 95 3.0 2,899 91.2 81 2.5
Music therapy 3,178 100.0 98 3.1 66 2.1 2,930 92.2 84 2.6
Dietary therapy 3,178 100.0 77 2.4 106 3.3 2,937 92.4 58 1.8
Thermotherapy 3,178 100.0 52 1.6 154 4.8 2,885 90.8 87 2.7
Qigong 3,178 100.0 35 1.1 141 4.4 2,941 92.5 61 1.9
Fasting therapy 3,178 100.0 25 0.8 102 3.2 2,993 94.2 58 1.8
Ayurveda 3,178 100.0 24 0.8 51 1.6 2,988 94.0 115 3.6
Homeopathy 3,178 100.0 13 0.4 30 0.9 3,009 94.7 126 4.0
Others 3,178 100.0 11 0.3 4 0.1 2,638 83.0 525 16.5

a: including Taiwanese, Thai-style massage, and reflexology (sole).
b: Other than that dispensed at a medical institution.

Source: Summary of Discussions to Date (PDF) [in Japanese], p. 8, Table 1
by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan from their
"Summary of Discussions to Date", Study Group on Concept of Integrative Medicine [in Japanese]

2. Perceptions towards various therapies

In the research mentioned above, targeting the general public, people were surveyed on their impressions concerning various complementary and alternative therapies. The results from the 3107 respondents showed that the largest number were familiar with “massage therapy” (40.5%), “Chinese herbal medicine” (34.2%), and “supplements” (31.4%). On the other hand, the response “not familiar with” was indicated most with regard to “homeopathy” (66.8%), followed by "ayurveda” (56.9%) and “thermotherapy” (51.6%). (Table 2)

In addition, therapies that respondents "felt safe" were "Chinese herbal medicine" (53.8%), followed by "massages" (48.5%), and "Seitai" (26.5%). On the other hand, respondents "felt uneasy" with "homeopathy" (37.0%), followed by "chiropractic" (27.9%), and "Seitai" (24.8%).

Furthermore, respondents were “interested" in, “massage” (57.7%), followed by “Chinese herbal medicine” (54.1%) and “Seitai” (50.3%). And were “not interested in”, “homeopathy” (47.2%), “magnet therapy” (35.3%), and "ayurveda” (32.1%).

Table 2: Awareness of therapies provided by non-medical institutions

Familiar witha neither Unfamiliar withb
# of responses % # of responses % # of responses %
Massage 1,259 40.5 1,287 41.4 561 18.1
Chinese herbal medicine 1,063 34.2 1,396 44.9 648 20.9
Supplements 977 31.4 1,470 47.3 660 21.2
Seitai 751 24.2 1,330 42.8 1,026 33.0
Chiropractic 561 18.1 1,296 41.7 1,250 40.2
Magnet therapy 475 15.3 1,408 45.3 1,224 39.4
Thermotherapy 322 10.4 1,183 38.1 1,602 51.6
Ayurveda 276 8.9 1,064 34.2 1,767 56.9
Homeopathy 170 5.5 862 27.7 2,075 66.8

a: Sum of responses “very familiar with” and “somewhat familiar with”
b: Sum of responses “very unfamiliar with” and “somewhat unfamiliar with”

Source: Summary of Discussions to Date (PDF) [in Japanese], p. 9, Table 2,
by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan from their
"Summary of Discussions to Date", Study Group on Concept of Integrative Medicine. [in Japanese]

3. Reference information when considering alternative therapies

In the research quoted above, the general public was further surveyed on the content of information used as a reference in determining the use of complementary and alternative therapies, provided by non-medical institutions. Of the 3227 respondents, the most frequent answer was “price” (58.9%), followed by “the experiences of others” (38.5%), “published results of research (data)” (37.7%), and “statement suggestive of effectiveness” (37.0%).

From these results, it is suggested that evidence is not the primary determinant of therapies pursued, but, rather, people are possibly most interested in the fact that are the least expensive. (Table 3)

Additionally, for those therapies undertaken for at least one month (at the time of the survey in February 2011), those who most frequently responded, “I consulted a physician,” on the use of the therapy, did so regarding “thermotherapy” (32.4%), followed by “acupuncture/moxibustion” (30.2%) and “bonesetting/osteopathy” (26.7%)..

With regard to those who responded “I was introduced to therapy/ on the recommendation of a physician,” the therapy that was most frequently mentioned was “thermotherapy” (27.0%), followed by “bonesetting/osteopathy” (21.7%) and “dietary therapy ” (20.4%).

Table 3: Information consulted to consider therapies that are provided by non-medical institutions

# of responses %
Total 3,227 100.0
Price 1,901 58.9
Experiences of ordinary people 1,241 38.5
published results of research (data) 1,217 37.7
People who report (positive) inciting words (advertisement) 1,195 37.0
Authoritative recommendations, such as from researchers and physicians 713 22.1
Explanations of risks 695 21.5
Information from the manufacturer or provider 672 20.8
Information regarding the certification or licenses of the practitioner 665 20.6
Good-deal feeling, Special campaigns or statement of discounts 485 15.0
Information on individual differences 283 8.8
Information on sales history/user experience 282 8.7
Recommendation or experience of celebrity or famous person 152 4.7
Record of awards or other recognition 69 2.1
Other 111 3.4

(Note) Respondents ranked up to three items in order of priority.

Source: Summary of Discussions to Date (PDF) [in Japanese], p. 10, Table 3,
by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan from their
“Study Group on Concept of Integrative Medicine.” [in Japanese]

Released: March 28, 2014

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