Professor Jon Adams receives Fulbright Senior Scholarship
- Distinguished Professor Jon Adams, Director of the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM) has been awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholarship.
- The Fulbright research project will examine the challenges and opportunities around integrative health care provision for vulnerable and underserved communities.
The use of complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) for treating illness and maintaining health is not uncommon in Australia and the United States. But the widespread popularity of these practices does not remove their potential to contribute to social disadvantage and inequality around care access and health outcomes.
“We already know that substantial inequality exists in the use of conventional care. The same applies to CIM, as the poor and most vulnerable, often with chronic illness, may have limited access to practitioner-led CIM or cannot afford the cost,” says Professor Adams, an Australian recipient of the Fulbright Senior Scholar Award for 2019.
The Fulbright program is the flagship foreign exchange scholarship program of the United States that aims to increase binational research collaboration, cultural understanding, and the exchange of ideas. With a well-established environment for CIM clinical practice, Professor Adams’ fieldwork and insights gained in the US has exceptional potential to lead to practice and policy development with regards to care and support for those in vulnerable communities living with chronic illness in Australia.
The burden of chronic illness is expanding rapidly, accounting for nearly two thirds of deaths worldwide. People are taking their health and response to illness into their own hands and CIM use is a core aspect of this.
Think acupuncture, massage therapy, traditional Chinese medicine, as well as practices and products that are managed by the patient with minimal practitioner involvement, like yoga, meditation, dietary supplements and herbal medicines.
The vast majority of CIM use occurs within an unregulated marketplace often hidden from conventional care. This can exacerbate a number of direct and indirect risks for patients, Professor Adams explains. These risks include CIM-drug interaction and the lack of monitoring of events, as well as delays in other health treatment seeking and misinformation from untrained practitioners.
“More and more people are seeking community-based ‘alternatives’ for coping with chronic illnesses,” says Professor Adams. “Yet, no research to date has conducted an in-depth examination of CIM use for chronic illness from both the health provider and patient perspectives.”
“Addressing this research gap is imperative to providing a fuller understanding of community-based responses to chronic illness in both the US and Australia.”
Alongside the risks there are, however, opportunities for chronic illness care and prevention in vulnerable communities. Much CIM accentuates the wider significance of wellness, including the mind-body relationship.
“CIM use may be an under-recognised means of not only enhancing chronic illness care but also maintaining health and independence among these sufferers. With critical research, we can identify and harness the potential for positive use of CIM.”
Set to depart for the US at the end of 2019, Professor Adams will draw upon the support and partnership of the Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Disparities (PIMHD) at the Boston Medical Centre, Boston University. His Fulbright project aims to develop an innovative research platform upon which further sustainable collaboration and enquiry will be developed across the US and Australia.
Professor Adams was presented his Fulbright Award at Parliament House in Canberra last week.