News from working group 5

Topic 5 of the concept research agenda is: Transition from critical-negative to positive stakeholders.

Group 5 is asked to elaborate on the following concept research questions:

    1. What are the major barriers for stakeholders to recommend, prescribe and/ or use T&CM medicinal products in clinical practice and in policy making?
    2. What information, which research projects and research-related activities are necessary to promote the transition from critical-negative to positive stakeholders (patients, doctors, pharmacists, policy makers)?
    3. How can we design and test implementation strategies to enable these transitions?


We consider that for T&CM to find a mainstream audience, the current approach to medicine needs to change and widen itself. We shall be using the following points to base our answers on:

1) For authorities, conventional health professionals and researchers to be able to recognize the value of T&CM they need to become capable of using a different view of approaching health and disease. We consider that a recent contribution by Ton Nicolai, during a Health4Europe workshop organized by DG Sante, is an excellent way to approach the issue of ‘point of view’ and how a change in mindset can be achieved. We believe that ‘replacing conventional medicine products by non-conventional products’ is a strategy that needs to be avoided. It carries too much of doing more of the same. For medicine to improve and find answers to many of the current problems, essential changes in approaches need to take place. We feel that the current messages coming from EU institutions support new ways of approaching medicine and more so approaching health. We believe that T&CM will find its rightful place in a type of medicine that is currently named multidisciplinary medicine. There is no mainstream definition of multidisciplinary medicine but we believe that providing the right narrative to support T&CM will create a new space in medicine where T&CM will naturally fit in. The essence of Ton’s message was as follows:

‘’Current medical research is typically interested in the way disease processes develop and focuses on improving ways to fight disease with the aid of ever more potent drugs. Host factors are hardly addressed. Medical research should shift its focus if we want to establish a health-oriented healthcare system. There is a fundamental difference between science that studies diseases and science that studies health: the questions, hypotheses, methods and answers, and conclusions will be different. For instance, research into the mechanisms and factors of how smoking may lead to lung cancer is very different from the research that tries to find out why many smokers do not get lung cancer.

The concept of positive health, also called Salutogenesis, focuses on how and why people stay well. On understanding the resilience factors that protect an individual from developing physical and emotional illness in the face of stress and other pathogenic factors. Within this context, it is essential to understand that most complementary and integrative medicine interventions support the host’s adaptive coping mechanisms rather than addressing specific diseases and dealing with impersonal risk factors. Their beneficial effects on the health and resilience of populations (including humans, animals, and plants) will, for instance, also reduce the dependence on antibiotics. So, we also plead for more research investment in complementary and integrative medicine interventions.

 It is essential that research is especially focused on exploring the role of resilience, i.e., the effects of diet with organic food (for humans and animals), exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and in humans. The role of resilience in organic farming needs exploration likewise. Research needs collaboration across specialisations and professions, including those focusing on different species (humans, animals, and plants), thus providing a solid foundation for tackling AMR from a One Health perspective. ‘’

2) Not only authorities and health professionals need to change their views in relation to medicine. There is also need for groundwork: to change the health narrative. We consider that the work undertaken by Ian Wilders (ExNarrative Ltd) is an excellent way approach to this.

In short what they do is the following:

Researchers read the press and find articles/news stories that are part of the ‘today news’ topics and can be related to the wider health issues. The company then re-publishes these stories with a narrative attached that supports the wider TCIM movement. These stories are distributed through a network of ‘micro-leaders’ (people who have social media outlets with some following) with the view that these get spread as wide as possible but within the appropriate media circles that concern the targeted audience.