Natural medicine might seem distant from the far-right fringes of society until you dig a little deeper and find the wealth of ‘wellness products’ being sold alongside political conspiracies. There is a constant quest for increasing well-being and less ‘toxic’ lifestyles. Meanwhile, conspiracy theories drain resources and instill fears, including political plots, controls, and cabals. It happens in the extremes on all sides, the quest for health alongside an implanted mission searching for “the truth.” Time magazine printed a November 2023 article called Wellness Conspiracy Theories are Spreading and highlighted the topic known colloquially as “conspirituality.” This leaves people simply seeking to feel better with the additional question of how to recognize scams from reality in holistic and natural health communities.
Dr. Melanie Trowbridge is a Licensed Naturopathic Physician and Acupuncturist practicing in Washington State. She and I spoke about the complexity of discernment in natural health communities at this time and about how AI is changing the future of medicine. She is a member of the American and Washington Associations of Naturopathic Physicians and achieved her higher-level degrees and an undergraduate degree in Health Psychology through Bastyr University. On completing her board exams, she started her private practice and is now the Engagement Director for Inside Health Institute, a 501c3 non-profit organization serving all persons, especially women who have been disaffected or disadvantaged within society. Melanie also practices separately as an Ordained Spiritual Nature Minister.
Background in Natural Health
In this episode of the Influence Continuum, we discussed what brought Dr. Trowbridge to her field, her earlier experiences in technology, and how AI is affecting healthcare today. She reflected that both of her parents studied medicine growing up. Her father served in the United States Navy through nursing and training; her mother worked much of her life as a neuropsychologist. Melanie stated that she felt naturally curious and drawn to medicine after working in technology in the late 1990s through the early 2000s. Before medical school, she worked at Microsoft headquarters, Concur Technologies, and Expedia. Now, she works to combine all her experiences into an ethical practice that tries to serve a happier, healthier future for all.
The 6 Guiding Naturopathic Principles
Dr. Trowbridge describes the 6 Naturopathic Principles as set out through the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians:
- First, Do No Harm
- The Healing Power of Nature
- Identify and Treat the Causes
- Doctor as Teacher
- Treat the Whole Person
She stated that these critical elements of medicine brought her to her field, and she appreciated the combinations of fact-based sciences and holistic healing strategies.
AI in Western and Holistic Healthcare Today
Through the short course at MIT called Artificial Intelligence in Health Care this summer, Melanie learned that prognosis and treatment would become more reliant upon new developments in today’s increasingly AI-dependent world. Her main concerns are data protection and patient autonomy. She discussed how AI may result in more data parsing and prediction algorithms. Her concerns are HIPAA compliance and ensuring careful consideration of what data is stored or parsed.
Her apprehensions around neural implants and other high-force technological interventions in medicine are points she tries to balance. On the one hand, helping those with disabilities to have better lives is exciting, but there are times when technology might not be entirely appropriate as an initial choice. We also spoke briefly about how these technologies could be used to control or manipulate those with malicious intent. One concern Melanie has for AI in healthcare going forward is an overreliance on technical solutions while ignoring other aspects of health, like prevention, autonomy, or low-force strategies. Again, she feels that achieving a balance with Nature will be essential for humanity’s future.
Steps to Fighting Healthcare Misinformation
We talked about the recent American Psychological Association article titled Using Psychology to Understand and Fight Health Misinformation: An APA Consensus Statement
Melanie noted the 8 Recommendations that were listed in the article:
1.) Avoid repeating misinformation without including a correction.
2.) Collaborate with social media companies to understand and reduce the spread of harmful misinformation.
3.) Use misinformation correction strategies with proven tools to promote healthy behaviors (e.g., counseling, skills training, incentives, social norms).
4.) Leverage trusted sources to counter misinformation and provide accurate health information.
5.) Debunk misinformation often and repeatedly using evidence-based methods.
6.) Prebunk misinformation to inoculate susceptible audiences by building skills and resilience from an early age.
7.) Demand data access and transparency from social media companies for scientific research on misinformation.
8.) Fund basic and translational research into the psychology of health misinformation, including effective ways to counter it.
We wrapped up by talking about what could be done in the realm of human trafficking since January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. To that, Melanie suggested more focus on the topic through education and understanding the different types of trafficking that exist and the specific methods used to entrap people. She stated that understanding that we all are vulnerable to undue influence is an important lesson to teach communities. She believes more people need to learn specific strategies to protect their vulnerabilities. She encouraged future government listening sessions where all sides felt heard and noted this was happening in diverse communities in Washington State. She applauds the leadership focusing on this health aspect in the coming year.