The White House commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy has issued its final report to the Department of Health and Human Services. The report lists more than 100 recommendations and courses of action, many of which emphasize information and education as the keys to making intelligent, objective decisions about health care. It also suggests that the federal government will play an increasing role in the evaluation and implementation of certain forms of complementary and alternative medicine.

The report does not distinguish between proven and unproven forms of CAM. In the report's introduction, the Commissions members admit that "most CAM interventions have not yet been scientifically studied and found to be safe and affective. "Public policy has not kept up with consumers or the science in this area. People are spending record sums out of their own pockets for complementary health care, and they have a right to expect good and reliable information and continued access."

The Commission's recommendations are divided into six categories, covering nearly every aspect of complementary and alternative medicine.

Among the suggestions:

-Federal agencies should receive increased funding for clinical, basic and health services research on CAM. Financial support should be increased at all levels —federal, state, and private —to expand and evaluate CAM faculty, curricula, and program development

-Congress and the White House should investigate "legislative and administrative incentives" that would spur CAM research by the private sector

-Increased efforts should be made to improve dialogue between CAM providers and conventional medical practitioners.

-The federal government should support research —including population based studies —to learn more about the way people use CAM; how they determine the safety and effectiveness of the products they use; and what they find satisfying (or unsatisfying) about CAM products and practices.

-Conventional health professional schools should develop "core curricula of knowledge about CAM" so they can discuss these treatments with patients and help them make informed choices about the type of care patients receive.

-HHS and other federal departments should identify health care models that already incorporate CAM, evaluate them, and support the models that are most successful, especially for use in "special and vulnerable" populations, such as patients who are chronically or terminally ill

-Health insurers and managed care organizations should modify their benefit programs to offer purchasers the option of plans that include CAM treatments, and should make use of CAM experts in the development or modifications of these programs.

(Complete text available online http://www.whccamp.hhs.gov/finalreport.html)