By Robert Verkerk PhD
Founder, executive & scientific director

This Sunday saw over 40 complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) associations come together at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, UK. They assembled to review and contribute to the work we’ve been involved in as part of a multi-institutional, international collaboration that aims to better understand the effects of CIM on people’s health. Central to this work has been developing a forum in which leaders from different modalities can input their views and ideas on how their modality can be better validated, as well as work on an app that allows clients and patients to measure their own health status.

The meeting took place under the banner of the Balens’ Forum, inspired and spearheaded by David Balen, managing director of Balens, specialist insurance brokers to the CIM sector. David and I jointly facilitated the day.

The following day, on Monday, I had the opportunity of presenting progress to the 300 gathered CIM practitioners at the Balens CPD Conference 2017. The conference provided a fantastic opportunity to inform the assembled practitioners on the progress of our work, which can be summarised as follows:

  • A new umbrella organisation called the Hawthorn Health Collaboration has been formed under which all CIM organisations and different modalities can come together to discuss priorities, developments, challenges and opportunities. This was inspired by the need to create a common way of assessing different modalities, recognising that most people’s health is the result of self-care and a combination of different healthcare approaches – as well as dealing with the ongoing attacks against CIM by the Skeptic movement.
  • The Hawthorn Tracker is a health status tracking and research app that is the result of a collaboration between ANH-Intl, Balens (UK), TNO (the Netherlands), Kansas University Integrative Medicine and the UK Universities of Westminster, Warwick and Southampton.
  • Every individual has multiple influences on their health, these often being a mixture of lifestyle and dietary choices as well as practitioner mediated or guided interventions. While randomised controlled trials (RCTs) aim to eliminate the effects of factors other than the specific therapeutic effect usually from a single intervention, this can dramatically underestimate the ‘total effect’ from multiple interventions and particular lifestyle and dietary interventions as experienced by individuals in the real world. The Hawthorn Tracker will provide a means by which individuals (rather than their practitioners) can measure their own health status using a combination of quantitative, bodymetric data and qualitative data from a scientifically validated questionnaire. Qualitative self-reported data are categorised into four parameters, namely health feel, functional health, emotional health and freedom from pain. Data are aggregated to yield a composite score expressed as a percentage that is a measure of self-reported health status or resilience. The user can choose to share their health data, including with their practitioner(s) and with the research consortium.
  • Further data about an individual’s specific uses of, and attitudes to, different healthcare approaches are also captured in a third data channel. Using pattern recognition software, data from individuals who have elected to share their health data for research purposes will be analysed for associations between self-reported health outcomes and usage of different healthcare approaches.

Development version of user interfaces for the tracking screens in the Hawthorn Tracker
  • The Hawthorn Tracker may be of great value for individuals as a motivator that helps guide the user towards multi-therapeutic health strategies and interventions that deliver positive health outcomes. In addition, research based on data from very large numbers of users (‘big data’) may provide the opportunities to discover associations between positive outcomes and particular lifestyle and dietary choices or systems of medicine.
  • It is expected that a beta version of the app will be available later in 2017 for evaluation in the UK, Netherlands, USA, Australia and perhaps even China.

Website launches

The Hawthorn Health Collaboration and GoHawthorn websites are expected to be launched within the next 30 days – watch this space!

We’re looking for donors and supporters

Individuals, organisations or companies interested in contributing to the funding of the project are being actively sought. Please contact us at [email protected] with the subject Hawthorn if you are interested in more information on how you can support this crucially important project