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J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Sep;16(9):1015-22. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0593.

Applying principles from complex systems to studying the efficacy of CAM therapies.

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Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


In October 2007, a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)-sponsored workshop, entitled "Applying Principles from Complex Systems to Studying the Efficacy of CAM Therapies," was held at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Over a 2-day period, the workshop engaged a small group of experts from the fields of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research and complexity science to discuss and examine ways in which complexity science can be applied to CAM research. After didactic presentations and small-group discussions, a number of salient themes and ideas emerged. This paper article describes the workshop program and summarizes these emergent ideas, which are divided into five broad categories: (1) introduction to complexity; (2) challenges to CAM research; (3) applications of complexity science to CAM; (4) CAM as a model of complexity applied to medicine; and (5) future directions. This discusses possible benefits and challenges associated with applying complexity science to CAM research. By providing an introductory framework for this collaboration and exchange, it is hoped that this article may stimulate further inquiry into this largely unexplored area of research.

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