The Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public

Harvey Fineberg

Harvey Fineberg, MD, PhD, President of the Institute of Medicine, welcomed participants to the Summit on Integrative Medicine.

In February 2009, the Institute of Medicine, in partnership with The Bravewell Collaborative, convened The Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public to examine the scientific basis of integrative medicine and its potential for improving the health of the nation.

More than 600 health practitioners, scientists, policy experts, academic and industry leaders and patient advocates from across the nation came together to share their research and experience, and suggest how the principles and practices of integrative medicine could help patients, providers and payors.

There was broad recognition that although medical advances have saved and improved the lives of millions, much of our nation’s health care resources are focused on addressing the effects of specific incidents of disease and injury while neglecting prevention, wellness and the underlying mental, emotional, social and environmental factors that have a significant influence on a person’s health.



"This disease-driven approach to care has resulted in spiraling costs as well as a fragmented health system that is reactive, episodic, inefficient and impersonal," said Ralph Snyderman, MD, Chancellor Emeritus, Duke University. "The integrative approach puts the patient at the center, addressing not just symptoms, but the real causes of illness. It is care that is preventive, predictive and personalized."

In offering integrative medicine as a practical model that can solve many of our current health care challenges, Summit faculty urged that “the first priority for any health care system using an integrative approach is to ensure that the full spectrum of preventive opportunities—clinical, behavioral, social, spiritual and environmental—are included in the care and delivery process.”


Ralph Snyderman

Ralph Snyderman, MD, Chancellor Emeritus, Duke University, gave the Summit's opening keynote.

They further advised that care “should account for the differences in individual conditions, needs and circumstances, and engage the patient as a partner in addressing all the factors that shape wellness, illness and restoration of health. The care should be a team activity with the patient as the central member, and there should be seamless integration across caregivers and institutions for the achievement and maintenance of optimal health throughout the patient’s lifespan.”

Important points articulated by Summit faculty were:

  • The progression of many chronic diseases such as cardiac disease and cancer can be reversed and sometimes even completely healed by making lifestyle modifications.

  • Genetics is not destiny and gene expression can be turned on or off by nutritional choices, levels of social support, stress reduction activities such as meditation, and exercise.

  • Our environment influences our health—the environment outside one's body rapidly becomes the environment inside the body.

  • Improving our primary care and chronic disease care systems is paramount.

  • The reimbursement system must be changed to encourage health care providers to focus on the health outcomes of their patients.

  • Changes in education will fuel changes in practice.

  • Evidence-based medicine is the only acceptable standard.

  • A large national demonstration project that substantiates the clinical and cost-effectiveness of an integrative approach to care is needed.


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Addressing Summit on the last day, Senator Harkin stated that it was time to make a large investment in prevention.

Integrative medicine is founded on the premise that health is a state of physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual wellness, which enables an engaged relationship with life. When health in its fullest sense is the goal of the health care system, then it naturally follows that all the influencing factors, not just the physical problems, need to be addressed in the care process. As Dr. Harvey Fineberg stated, "One of the most important reasons to have this Summit is to focus attention on health care for the whole person."

The official summary of the Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public can be downloaded from the IOM website.


Go  for video recordings of all Summit presentations

Go  to listen to a radio interview with Summit Chair Ralph Snyderman

Go  to watch the announcement of the Summit on the Charlie Rose Show

Go  for the official Summary of the Summit

About the IOM

Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.