Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Conventional Medicine: a sociological approach to boundaries, exchanges and confluences

 The research plan focuses on the relations between Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Conventional Medicine (CM) in Portugal. By CAM we mean a diversified set of medicines, therapies or therapeutic practices that have in common 1) the demarcation from conventional medicine, 2) occupying a marginal position in health care systems in the Western societies; 3) proclaiming the possession of a body of knowledge more or less systematised on health and illness guiding therapeutic practices; 4) demarcating from other therapeutic approaches, such as popular medicines, with an empirical basis and without formalisation and codification of knowledge and its transmission, or therapeutic modalities based on esoteric and spiritual elements, such as religion and esotericism. Specifically, for the purpose of the operationalisation of the research, it includes the seven medicines / therapies that are regulated in Portugal since 2013: traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, phytotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic.

The objective is to explore these relations at four levels: i) at the institutional level of public policies (essentially in terms of legislation that regulates the teaching and practice of the various therapies); ii) in the field of organisational projects (such as clinics with pluralistic therapeutic offers); iii) at the level of individual decision of the doctor or the CAM therapist (in particular by mutual referral or use of therapeutic techniques from another therapeutic system); iv) at the level of the patient's individual decision, through the complementarity or alternation of CM and CAM. It is intended, in particular, to show the concordances and dissonances that occur between the various levels.

In order to respond to these objectives, a mixed methods strategy is adopted, combining extensive-quantitative procedures for collecting and analysing information with intensive-qualitative procedures, using different types of sources and listening to diverse social actors.

Start Date
End Date
Project Funding
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
External Partners
CIES-IUL - Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology
Data from Ciência-IUL