When President Obama paid a visit to the campus at NIH last week, he announced a $10 billion investment in the programs run by the institution, including $8.2 billion to be spent in 2009 and 2010 on research. Of that total, a little over $32 million will be spent within the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), or about .36% of the research dollars.

While many in the integrative health and CAM community are pleased to see any level of additional funding at a time when NCCAM is being challenged to justify its existence, the total investment seems paltry compared to the corresponding level of economic activity that is generated by consumer preferences for integrative and holistic options ($35 to $40 billion yearly).   The increasing demand for CAM therapies in conventional care settings, including hospitals, also suggests more attention will be needed on research in these areas.
(The most recent survey by the 5000-member American Hospital Association – for 2007 – on the use of CAM therapies showed 38% of responding hospitals offered some form of therapy: 84% of those said they provided the services as result of consumer demand, which is hardly a surprise.)

I thank John Weeks, at The Integrator Blog, for providing context for the 52 projects funded by the ARRA program for NCCAM in 2009 (45 are original, seven are projects funded in previous years).  See Weeks’ full break out of investigators and their institutions here. The break out of categories of therapies awarded work out this way (again thanks to Weeks for this rough approximation):

  • Herbs and related supplements: 22 (or roughly 42% of the awards)
  • Mind-Body: 6
  • Yoga: 3
  • Acupuncture: 4
  • Manipulation: 4
  • Massage: 1
  • (those four = roughly 23%)
  • Health services addressing cost issues: 1
  • Integrative clinic or health system-connected projects: 3
  • CAM colleges: 2 (both manipulation-focused)

Weeks noted that the awardees did not include other CAM educational institutions (i.e., naturopathic or oriental medicine), nor projects focused on whole practice/whole systems projects, which may simply reflect the absence of any proposals.   The primary focus on natural substances and manipulative therapies is in keeping with NCCAM’s historic preferences.