New Name Wanted: Federal Agency Backs Away from 'Alternative Medicine'

Yoga meditation (Image credit: <a href=''>Meditation photo</a> via Shutterstock)

The government agency that funds research into complementary and alternative medicine is looking to change its name.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is proposing to drop the "alternative" from its name, and add the word "research" to emphasize the agency's research focus, said Dr. Josephine Briggs, the agency's director. The proposed new name is the National Center for Research on Complementary and Integrative Health.

"Alternative" refers to "the use of unproven practices in place of treatments we know to be safe and effective," Briggs said. One reason for the change is that surveys show alternative medicine is only rarely practiced.

In addition, there has been a movement in health care to incorporate "integrative health," which includes mind-body therapies such as meditation, in combination with standard treatments.

"With these changes in the research and practice landscape, we believe that our current name no longer accurately reflects our Congressional mandate, which is, in part, to study the integration of these practices as a complement to conventional care," Briggs said in a video posted on the agency's website.

The agency also does not want its name to be "misconstrued as advocacy or promotion of unproven practices," Briggs said. The word "research" in the name makes it more explicit about the agency's research mission.

The agency is seeking feedback about the name change, and people can send comments through the agency's website.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. FollowLive Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.