It is critical that the public, health care providers, researchers, and policymakers be informed and knowledgeable about the safety and effectiveness of complementary and integrative health interventions. They also should have access to information about ongoing research and research results, as well as information about NCCIH’s scientific priorities and funding initiatives.
NCCIH faces several challenges with regard to translating and disseminating complex scientific information to an interested and engaged public. First, the landscape of complementary and integrative health is inundated with information, some of it overtly promotional, and much of it either not based on evidence or of questionable quality and reliability. Second, there is evidence that individuals who use complementary health approaches often do not discuss their use with their conventional health care providers. Instead, they rely on other sources, including family and friends, practitioners of complementary health approaches, and information gleaned from the Internet, popular media, and advertising.
Going forward, NCCIH must continue to ensure that its presentation of evidence-based information on complementary health interventions is scientifically objective, appropriately balances what is known and not known about their safety and effectiveness, and provides context in the landscape of conventional treatment approaches. By extension, NCCIH also must develop methods and approaches to enhance the public’s understanding of basic scientific concepts and biomedical research to lay a foundation of knowledge for the better understanding of information and improved decisionmaking. Importantly, NCCIH must provide information that is engaging, accessible, and of value to the public, health care providers, researchers, and policymakers, given the flood of information in the public domain and the frequent self-care use of complementary health approaches.
1. Disseminate evidence-based information on complementary and integrative health approaches.
NCCIH seeks to provide unbiased, reliable, authoritative resources on complementary and integrative health approaches and research results for health care providers, researchers, policymakers, the health industry, and the public. The Center uses a variety of communication techniques and technologies to bring evidence-based information about complementary health approaches to these audiences and to provide a scientifically accurate perspective on the potential promise, as well as the risks, of using these interventions. NCCIH provides information to its audiences through multiple channels, including the Web, broadcast and print media, a research blog, and a social media program.
The Center recognizes the importance of engagement with the scientific research community. The NCCIH Web site provides current information about ongoing research, research results, strategic directions, high- and low-priority research areas, policies, and grant funding opportunities. In addition, information is disseminated at scientific conferences and meetings.
Health care professionals regularly face many challenges in providing their patients with advice and education about complementary and integrative health approaches. Recognizing these challenges, NCCIH continues to develop information resources targeted toward the needs of this important audience. These resources include specialized communications, outreach to professional societies, and online tools, including a dedicated Web portal and a monthly e-newsletter that summarizes the current evidence base of specific complementary health interventions and provides links to relevant clinical practice guidelines.
NCCIH will continue to work actively with its diverse community of stakeholders to identify, understand, and address the information needs of health care providers, researchers, policymakers, health industry leaders, and the general public, and their concerns about accuracy or interpretation of research results and health messages.
2. Develop methods and approaches to enhance public understanding of basic scientific concepts and biomedical research.
NCCIH recognizes the importance of the general public having knowledge and understanding of basic scientific facts, concepts, and vocabulary related to health research. Those who possess such knowledge have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the basic information about scientific research needed to make informed health care decisions. There is a particular need for an improved understanding of the science of health for those who use complementary and integrative health approaches. Because so many of these approaches are readily available in the marketplace, and so many individuals choose self-care options for their health, NCCIH sits at the crossroads between research and real world consumer use.
To meet these needs, NCCIH will plan, implement, and evaluate a collaborative effort to educate the public about the importance of understanding basic scientific concepts and biomedical research. The Center will also provide consumers with the information they need to be discerning about what they hear and read and to make well-informed health care decisions. The information developed will equip the public with the ability to read, understand, and critically evaluate a variety of research reports, from commercial advertisements to articles in the popular press to publications in scientific journals. Tools and informational resources will include engaging short videos, podcasts, infographics, interactive modules, and links to other credible resources, and would be fully integrated into the NCCIH Web site. The Center will also identify evaluation metrics to assess the effectiveness of these efforts.