Traditionally, public health relies extensively on conventional (allopathic) medicine in its mission to prevent and treat disease. It accepts reductionistic methods to identify the origin of illness at the cellular and subcellular level, and then applies these principles in assessing and addressing risk factors in populations. This results in a three-tiered approach to the delivery of public health services: (1) primary prevention, which involves efforts to reduce exposure to risk factors for injury and illness; (2) secondary prevention, which involves the identification and control of disease in its early stages; and (3) tertiary prevention, which attempts to control the impact of existing illness and injury through prolonged treatment and rehabilitative services.
Paralleling the growth of technology-based medicine (and its effectiveness), however, has been a simultaneous rise in chronic illnesses that are resistant to current treatment modalities and very costly to society. Leading causes of morbidity in the early 1900s, such as trauma and infectious disease, have been supplanted by chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection. This requires the development of a new model of health care that is multidimensional and that recognizes all factors influencing health and illness. At a public health level, multidimensional problems require multidimensional interventions, which is the basis of the integrative medical approach.
WILLIAM BENDA, ANDREW WEIL, The Gale Group Inc., Macmillan Reference USA, New York,