While Congress continues to leave the country in limbo under a federal shutdown, at least one decision from the Senate earlier this year is being celebrated by local doctors.
This week, Oct. 7 to 13, is the first national Naturopathic Medicine Week. The U.S. Senate established the week following the passage of a resolution Sept. 10 that recognized the ability of naturopathic physicians to provide “safe, effective and affordable health care.”
Mike Jawer, public affairs director for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, said he hopes this recognition will lead to licensure for naturopathic physicians in all 50 states.
“You couldn’t pick three better adjectives,” he said. “This is the first time the federal government has in any way recognized naturopathic medicine.”
Naturopathy is a form of medicine that uses natural treatments, often less invasive, with an emphasis on causes, not just symptoms.
“Naturopathic medicine offers a great way to get a handle on conditions like diabetes, chronic pain, allergies and even lack of energy or weight,” Jawer said.
Approximately 4,400 doctors in the country are licensed to practice naturopathic medicine, having graduated from accredited four-year naturopathic medical schools. Currently, 17 states — including Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — provide licensure for naturopathic doctors.
Denise Clark, president of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors, said the awareness from the national week has already been great.
“It provides a lot of momentum and incentive for naturopathic doctors around the country,” she said. “I have a lot of people calling about coming to Colorado to practice here.”
Dr. Kimberly Nearpass of Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic in Frisco said she was excited about the national recognition.
“We’ve been recognized as part of the options for health care in this country,” she said. “It’s all part of a growing awareness.”
The new Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” includes a provision with a non-discrimination clause that says health insurers cannot discriminate when it comes to coverage from any licensed health care provider.
“The purpose of the (provision) is to increase choices for consumers,” Jawer said. “It opens it to different types of service providers in the non MDs range, as long as they are licensed in the state.”
In the U.S., 75 percent of money spent on health care is on chronic illnesses, Jawer said.
“Naturopathic physicians are trained as primary care physicians,” he said. “They can provide 360 degree care. Some people categorize it as complementary or alternative to regular medicine, but really it’s integrative care.”
Naturopathic medicine can address issues with chronic conditions not typically addressed using traditional Western medicine.
“Our medicine is, and always has been, accessible and affordable,” Nearpass said. “It’s great there’s more awareness being brought forth at the same time as health care changes in the country.”
Naturopathic Medicine Week includes open houses, lectures, book signings, health walks and more throughout the state and country. At the Mountain-River clinic, any visits scheduled during this week will receive a 10 percent discount.
“(The week) kind of gives legitimacy to our profession,” Clark said. “More people can understand it and realize it’s a good option. It’s about choice for everyone.
Michael Cronin, president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, said in a prepared statement that this week of free events is designed for people who are curious about natural medicine and how it works, compared with conventional medicine.
“Given the rising costs of health care, the anticipated shortage of primary care physicians, and the ever-expanding interest in holistic health and wellness, the public deserves to know more about naturopathic medicine,” he said.