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Collection Development Manual

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine).
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classifies CAM therapies into five categories or domains: 1) alternative medical systems, or complete systems of therapy and practice; 2) mind-body interventions, or techniques designed to facilitate the mind's effect on bodily functions and symptoms; 3) biologically-based systems, including herbalism; 4) manipulative and body-based methods, such as chiropractic and massage therapy; and 5) energy therapies. For a description of each of these categories, see the NCCAM Web site.
CAM therapies are termed as Alternative when used in place of conventional treatments and Complementary when used together with conventional treatments. Integrative medicine combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness (NCCAM).
Scope and emphasis:
NLM comprehensively collects research publications that describe, analyze or evaluate the delivery, safety or efficacy of complementary and alternative systems, practices or products; official guidelines or policies for the use of CAM therapies or products; and authoritative works on the education, training and certification of CAM practitioners. Of particular interest are works documenting the clinical and economic impact of CAM therapies on U.S. health care and consumers and works tracing the trajectory of acceptance or rejection of various historical and contemporary therapeutic systems.
Special considerations:
CAM generates a large body of literature not specifically addressed to professional health practitioners or scholars. NLM collects such materials selectively, emphasizing works that characterize diverse viewpoints, those chronicling the public response to CAM therapies, and those documenting the CAM health information disseminated to the U.S. public at large. Academic Dissertations on complementary and alternative medicine, especially by medical anthropologists, may be of interest.
See also: