Last month, I attended the International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health (IRCIMH) meeting in Miami, which was convened by the Consortium of Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM). As CAHCIM tweeted: “Three days, 22 countries, 100 academic medical institutions, [and] 900 researchers, physicians, educators, and trainees…” Congratulations to the organizers of and participants in this successful event.
The poster sessions offered a great opportunity to meet many new investigators engaged in exciting research in the field of integrative health. Reflecting on some highlights of these sessions, I was brought to the realization that we could strive for better balance in the science featured in the IRCIMH poster presentations. The clinical research posters outnumbered the basic research presentations 3:1, and research on mind and body strategies dominated the research landscape. One concern is that many clinical research projects were not developed from adequate mechanistic studies and, hence, the outcomes from these projects may not be very informative, provide a well defined path for the next study, or give direction for future research programs.
At the IRCIMH meeting, NCCAM program staff took great care in articulating NCCAM’s goals for the Center’s clinical research portfolio: a strong focus on projects that are aligned with our Strategic Plan (symptom management, health promotion, disease prevention, etc.); research that is conducted at the appropriate stage based on current evidence; research that is statistically powered to assess clinically meaningful outcomes (when the evidence base is sufficient to support an efficacy trial); and research that proposes realistic timeframes and budgets and test hypotheses that will guide future research. We want to encourage our investigators to give strong consideration to the strength and quality of their preliminary data, the appropriateness of the proposed methods to answer their stated hypotheses, the feasibility of a clinical trial as designed, and the potential impact of trial outcome to shape future studies.
I urge clinical researchers to review our Framework for Developing and Testing Mind and Body Interventions, which describes various stages of research. I welcome your thoughts.