Nine: Complementary and alternative medicine as an invisible health support workforce

In ageing Western societies where chronic conditions have become more prevalent, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices and practitioners have performed an important role in areas such as health promotion, rehabilitation, and compassionate, preventive and palliative care. Yet collaborative partnership between CAM practitioners, other professionally qualified health care workers, and the state, has rarely materialised. By using a neo-Weberian social closure theory of the professions, this chapter examines the extent to which CAM practitioners have come to form part of an invisible and undervalued health support workforce, focusing on the interlinked societies of Brazil and Portugal. It will be suggested that CAM practitioners have resembled health support workers, especially in their statutorily unregulated status and/or subordinated role to the medical profession. In Brazil, CAM practices, but not CAM practitioners, are statutorily regulated; in Portugal, CAM practitioners, despite being statutorily regulated, remain marginalised. In this respect, CAM practitioners have been a largely invisible health support workforce, despite increasing public sympathy for their services and legitimation from the World Health Organization.

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