So, America is changing. We have an African American president. The Latino population continues to grow. How can the alternative medicine community adjust to this demographic shift? What are they to do?
I’m glad you asked! It turns out that immigrants are palomas ripe for the plucking. Now, we’ve talked about the ethics of alternative medicine, and how “meaning well” is not exculpatory. If you promote quackery, it’s wrong, even if you believe your own drivel.
One of the worst types of drivel is naturopathy. This “specialty” advertises itself as “medicine-plus”, but really it’s “healing-minus”: minus the evidence, minus the training, minus intelligent thought.
It should be no surprise that recent immigrants, who may have low educational levels, especially in English, and have less access to the health care system financially, culturally, and linguistically should be ripe targets.
And targeting these vulnerable individuals is a naturopathic “doctor” in Connecticut.
This doc sounds like she really cares. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that she is diverting people from real medical care. For example, Latinos have a much higher rate of diabetes than Anglos (6.6% of non-Hispanic whites have diabetes, 10.4% of Hispanics have diabetes). Naturopaths don’t have much to offer these folks. Let me explain.
We’ve talked before about the complications of diabetes, and how they are divided into macro- and micro-vascular. We’ve also talked about how we prevent these complications. Certain medications prevent blindness, strokes, and heart attacks in diabetics. These effects are separate from diet and exercise. As part of taking care of diabetics, I must educate them about their disease and track several different parameters, such as weight, blood pressure, kidney function, urine protein, foot exams, eye exams, cholesterol, etc. What does our naturopath have to offer? Is it all of that “plus”? Her website gives all sorts of generalities about prevention, lifestyle change, and helping the body heal itself, but there is no evidence that she knows anything about the science of disease and health.
First, like all fake doctors, this place has lots of testimonials in place of real evidence. I don’t list testimonials at my office. It’s tacky, and it doesn’t give a measure of success in keeping people healthy. All it measures is how much someone liked a doctor as a person.
And what are these folks testifying about? Probably how nice the doctor is. They certainly aren’t giving us a measure of how well she prevents and treats disease. How do I know?
Here’s what she says about herself:
She has worked with children and teenagers with various conditions such as ADHD, and food allergies. Likewise she treats women’s related issues including menopause, PMS, breast cancer and hormone related issues. Dr. Robinson is very knowledgeable in diet and exercise related issues including weight gain/loss, detox-cleansing diets, and obsessive compulsive disorders. She also does guided imagery, coupled with counseling techniques. Her philosophy is to meet the patient where they are and work with them based on their needs. She acts as a coach-motivater-cheerleader and most importantly educator. She has a vested interest in seeing her patients achieve and sustain better health. Dr. Robinson will combine whatever conventional regime currently in place with Naturopathic medicines for a safe, effective way to maximum health.
I’m a general internist. I claim an expertise in the prevention, evaluation, and management of adult diseases. That’s it. I’m not a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, gynecologist, or surgeon.
What qualifies this “doctor” to treat adults and children, and a variety of conditions such as ADHD, food allergies, breast cancer, guided imagery, and OCD? And the fact that she admits to being “very knowledgeable” about “detox-cleansing diets” is not a mark in her favor. How does a detox diet prevent stroke? Will guided imagery prevent kidney failure?
She is apparently popular in the Hispanic community where she practices. Of course, science isn’t a democratic process, and since her popularity cannot be due to her ability to implement science-based medicine, it must be based on something else.
According to a news article:
Robinson, one of many doctors in the small but growing field of naturopathic medicine, has helped build her private practice in Stamford by offering her services to the Hispanic community at affordable rates.
Early in her practice, Robinson discovered Hispanic patients were drawn to the type of natural medicine she offered. Now most of her business comes from Hispanics, she said.
She went through the routines of a primary doctor – taking blood pressure, listening to Shutte’s heartbeat, taking his weight. But instead of writing a prescription for blood pressure medication, which S. once took and disliked because of side effects, Robinson recommended he supplement his diet with fish peptides, flax, pumpkin seeds and cucumber.
I’m sure the patient felt cared-for, but hypertension is a killer, and Hispanics have high rates of strokes and other complications of hypertension than non-Hispanic whites. Additionally, Hispanics are statistically more likely to have poorly-controlled blood pressure.
Look, I’m willing to accept that this naturopath may mean well, and I certainly believe that her patients like her. But she is doing a double-disservice. Not only is she practicing incorrect medicine, but she has singled out a particularly vulnerable group and preyed on them. The fact that she means well or that they like her is less important that the fact that this represents a type of altmed racism. It takes trusting, at-risk folks, abuses their trust, takes their money, and diverts them from care they desperately need.
This is shameful.