Frequently Asked Questions: Name Change

Why did Congress change NCCAM’s name?

As part of an omnibus budget measure signed by President Obama in December 2014, Congress has changed the name of NCCAM to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, or NCCIH. The change was made to more accurately reflect the Center’s research commitment to studying promising health approaches that are already in use by the American public. Since the Center’s inception, complementary approaches have grown in use to the point that Americans no longer consider them an alternative to medical care. For example, more than half of Americans report using a dietary supplement, and Americans spend nearly four billion dollars annually on spinal manipulation therapy. The name change is in keeping with the Center’s existing Congressional mandate and is aligned with the strategic plan currently guiding the Center’s research priorities and public education activities.

Why does the new name include “Integrative Health” instead of “Alternative Medicine”?

Large population-based surveys have found that the use of “alternative medicine”—unproven practices used in place of conventional medicine—is actually rare. By contrast, integrative health care, which can be defined as combining complementary approaches into conventional treatment plans, has grown within care settings across the nation, including hospitals, hospices, and military health facilities. The goal of an integrative approach is to enhance overall health, prevent disease, and to alleviate debilitating symptoms such as pain and stress and anxiety management that often affects patients coping with complex and chronic disease, among others. However, the scientific foundation for many complementary approaches is still being built.

Does the Center have a new mission?

The mission of NCCIH will remain unchanged. We will continue to focus on the study of usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative interventions, and providing the public with research-based information to guide health care decision-making.

What are the Center’s research priorities?

The Center’s research priorities include the study of complementary approaches, such as spinal manipulation, meditation, and massage, to manage pain and other symptoms that are not well-addressed by conventional treatments, to encourage self-care methods that support healthier lifestyles, and to uncover potential usefulness and safety issues of natural products. The practices and products that will continue to be studied by the Center are prioritized by four guiding principles: scientific promise, amenability to be studied using the highest quality research methods, use by the American public, and the potential impact on public health.