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The University of Southampton
Primary Care Research Centre

Integrative health care


Many people turn to traditional and alternative therapies to help them cope with illness when western medicine does not seem to supply the whole answer.

We believe that some traditional therapies can ‘complement’ Western medicine and should be accepted and integrated into a person-centred approach. Such therapies may help due to specific effects that can be demonstrated to be superior to placebo - for instance acupuncture, or may offer most of their benefit through non-specific effects as a result of time with the therapist, effective communication and a space to reflect on the illness.  

Whilst non-specific effects would not be demonstrable in a standard placebo controlled trial, from the patient point of view engaging in such therapies would potentially still be beneficial and may facilitate a number of self-healing mechanisms that are currently poorly defined. We aim to identify therapies with specific effects and also to explore and enhance the use of non-specific effects for patient benefit.

Improved communication in the consultation, a holistic perspective, and the power of specific words and phrasing can all be used to improve the patient experience and outcomes in primary care settings. An integrative approach aims to utilize the strengths of both conventional and complementary systems of medicine to optimize the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatments, to reduce adverse effects, and to address both the symptoms and the root causes of disease.

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