Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a fascinating and fast-changing area of medicine. This book explores the challenging issues associated with CAM in the context of the social, political and cultural influences that shape people's health. The book provides an overview of social change, consumption and debates arising from the increased public interest in CAM, arguing for and against different classifications. It discusses how CAM developed in a political and historical context, critically assessing the importance of ethics and values to CAM practice and how these inform what practitioners do. The book continues by analysing the question of what people want, the changing contested nature of health, and the nature of personal and social factors associated with the use of CAM. Examining the diversity of settings in which CAM takes place the book explores the social, political and economic milieu in which CAM is provided and used. The book is one of three core texts for the forthcoming Open University course K221 Perspectives on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (first presented in February 2005).
Geraldine Lee-Treweek is Lecturer in Health Studies at the Open University, UK.