(Sacramento, Calif.) --- Is naturopathic medicine quality health care? Does the education of its practitioners produce a primary care workforce? Is it backed up by reliable research? Will it save money? Is there public demand for it? These were among the questions for which the California Assembly sought answers last week at a standing-room-only hearing that explored the potential impact of licensure for naturopathic physicians. With its counterparts in 12 states having now given the legal nod to naturopathic physicians to practice, the Assembly has set a course that proponents of natural health claim could likely pave the way for the Golden State to become number 13.
“We’re here today in response to the widespread appeal issued by Californians for greater choice in health care,” proclaimed Sally Lamont, N.D., Executive Director of the California Association of Naturopathic Physicians. “Offering our state’s consumers the access to a full range of health care providers, including those that focus on lifestyle, nutritional, and botanical medicine, is at the heart of this crusade,” she continued. “Licensing naturopathic physicians in California represents a responsible step forward in ensuring that accessibility, affordability, and accountability in health care will never again be compromised.”
Assemblymember Lou Correa, Chairman of the Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee, convened the hearing as part of the Legislature’s ongoing study of the licensure issue. “Naturopathic medicine may offer valuable health care options for identifying ways to diagnose and treat diseases with an emphasis on health promotion,” stated Correa in gaveling the hearing to order. “The naturopathic approach could very well reduce the need for recurrent and expensive medical interventions by maximizing the body’s intrinsic capacity for self-healing and repair,” he continued.
Witnesses representing a wide range of healthcare providers, consumers, researchers, educators, and payors joined Dr. LaMont in highlighting the many benefits that licensure would yield. Among the specific benefits articulated were improved access to care in rural and underserved areas, delivery of primary prevention and disease screening, and safeguarding the public’s trust and confidence in naturopathic medicine through rigorous educational standards. While a bill extending licensure to naturopathic physicians has yet to be formally introduced in California this session, legislation is expected to be considered in both the Assembly and Senate in early 2003.
Additional witnesses who testified on behalf of licensure included Thomas Shepherd, Ph.D. (President, Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington); Paul Mittman, N.D. (President, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona); Pamela Snider, N.D. (Associate Dean of Naturopathic Medicine, Bastyr University); Catherine Downey, N.D. (Clinic Director, National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon); Konrad Kail, N.D. (Director of Research, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine); Jane Guiltanan, N.D. (Dean of Clinical Affairs, Bastyr University); Tom Drost, M.D. (board certified surgeon and naturopathic doctoral candidate at Bastyr University); Kurt Hegetschweiler, D.C. (Vice President, Professional and Governmental Affairs, American Specialty Health Plans in San Diego, California); and Frank Cuny (Executive Director, California Citizens for Health Freedom).
Consumer and professional resources about naturopathic medicine are available at www.canp.org, including information about getting involved in the grassroots campaign to advocate for licensure in California.