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'Pseudoscience': Alberta's health minister under fire for naturopathic medicine meeting

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Alberta's health minister is facing pushback after taking a meeting focused on naturopathic medicine's role in the province's primary care.

Adriana Lagrange posted a photo on social media this week with Rob Roth, the president of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta.

Health professionals are puzzled by the meeting.

"Naturopaths have no place in primary care," University of Alberta public health professor Timothy Caufield said.

"We're not going to solve the problems of our healthcare system by embracing alternative medicine or by embracing unproven therapies. We need good evidence to light our path forward."

Caufield, who studied the profession extensively, believes public funding should come nowhere near the treatment method – but he's worried.

Alberta's premier has previously said the province needs more room for alternative care in its system.

"We were just having a conversation about the role naturopathic doctors have in Alberta," Lagrange said. "(Roth) was highlighting all of the great work that they're doing. And that was the extent of the conversation."

"I haven't promoted anything."

Naturopaths take in patients who are looking for health-related help and typically advise them to use "naturally-inclined," drug-free methods.

The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors says the care aims to stimulate the body's own healing power to fight underlying causes of disease.

Treatment can include diet and lifestyle advice, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

Caufield claims the strategies are "science-free."

"It is a practice that is based on pseudoscience and this idea of vitalism, that nature cures," he told CTV News.

"It is a practice that is almost throughout its entire history embraced unproven therapies. A naturopath today still provides things like homeopathy – which is scientifically absurd – ozone therapies, detoxes."

"It's really rooted in pseudoscience."

Roth pushes back against that notion.

"(The meeting was) just about being able to add items into patient care if they want it," he said. "And that's just understanding people have different values about how they want to address their health."

Roth says the college approached Lagrange about the meeting, as a way to "complement" primary care as AHS is restructured.

"Can we help fill some of the gaps that are present currently," he said. "The government recognizes that there are serious problems that need to be solved, and I think that they definitely have a boldness, a courage and an innovative strategy to do that."

More than 300 naturopaths work in Alberta. The profession is self-regulating, and visits aren't covered by public health insurance.

"It is a legitimate profession and it has robust training behind it," Roth said.

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