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Industries & Professions /
Alternative Health Care
Alternative health care describes methods and techniques that differ from conventional medical strategies such as surgeries, X rays, and prescription drugs. This broad, growing field employs natural practices, such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and hypnosis, in the healing process.
While Ayurvedic, Native American, and traditional Chinese medicines date back more than 4,000 years, many Western cultures had been, until recently, reluctant to adopt practices that differed from conventional medicine. In the mid-19th century the Popular Health Movement (PHM) gained momentum in response to concerns about costly, inexact, and dangerous techniques. PHM attempted to remedy these practices by emphasizing the body’s own abilities to heal itself.
By the 1970s holistic medicine became more common with its total approach toward well-being through a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual outlooks.
Today, the field of conventional medicine is gaining in practice as alternative health strategies are used in conjunction with conventional medicine. For example, to relieve pain, a patient may be prescribed a regime of medication and acupuncture sessions. This pairing of disciplines has given rise to health care facilities that provide integrative and integrated medicine.
As alternative health practices continue to gain in popularity, the job outlook and economic growth of this industry remains very positive. Among the common employment titles in this field are massage therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and homeopathic doctors. Yoga and meditation instructors are also included in this category because of the mental and physical health benefits they promote.
Alternative health care is expected to continue experiencing growth over the next several years. The industry had been steadily gaining acceptance in the medical field even before passage in 2010 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. This reform law contains provisions to support the use of alternative medicine. For example, it calls for the formation of community health teams, within which will be licensed complementary alternative medicine practitioners, to promote patient-centered medical homes.
The industry has also gained popularity through breakthroughs in medical marijuana laws and trends in seeking alternatives to prescription drug use in treating conditions, such as attention deficit disorder and cancer.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, by 2016 alternative health care revenue will top $14.4 billion, with annual gains of 4.3 percent. To complement this growth, the industry will experience a rise in specialized careers. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 23 percent increase by 2022 for massage therapists. Many alternative health care workers are self-employed and work part time.