Millenials & Gen Z: learning to be critical consumers of complementary medicines?
One of the most enjoyable academic tasks this semester was developing a new ‘breadth’ unit at the University of Tasmania (UTas). I do always enjoy getting together a new unit – it’s such a creative process, deciding what needs to be covered, how we will do it. This time it was also fun. UTas now requires its undergraduate students to take a couple of interdisciplinary units within their various awards. One of the units they can choose is about complementary medicine. Our brief was to get them to think about how they make their personal healthcare decisions, whether that is to address specific health problems or to enhance their wellness, while teaching them critical thinking skills
We had a mixed cohort. We had students studying music to those in medical research, students from dementia care and accounting. The unit looked at wellness and commodification, big business and environmental issues, evidence and regulation. Students considered questions like – what are complementary medicines and why are they popular? What is evidence behind them? How do you make decisions about what complementary medicines to take? What are the legal and ethical issues of their use?I don’t know about the students, but I certainly learned a lot. Working with colleagues from sociology and law, I got a glimpse of how complementary medicine is seen from the outside, what academics from those disciplines understood to be the societal issues of complementary medicine being so much a part of healthcare. The lawyers included misleading and deceptive conduct a part of consumer protection. The sociologist provided a new perspective on the historical antagonism and the shifting boundaries between conventional medicine and complementary medicine.
If the students got as much out of it as I did, then we are on a winner. I look forward to their feedback, and to offering the unit again next semester.