Date of Completion

January 1986


Sociology, General




Alternative health modalities have survived and prospered in industrialized society despite competition, legal opposition, and anti-quackery campaigns. Some modalities have managed not only to attract patients, but to begin to secure state support.^ Recent interest in a healthy life style and concerns over rising medical costs may encourage greater utilization of alternative health care systems. Additionally, WHO has recommended the incorporation of traditional healers into health care systems as a mechanism for providing primary care to medically underserved areas in many areas of the world.^ The intention of this research was to expand our knowledge concerning alternative health through an investigation of interactions between the medical, political, and economic systems, and the resulting distribution of resources to alternative modalities.^ The theory of the organization set (Evan, 1972) was employed as an explanatory framework. The research centered on characteristics and experiences of alternative health organizations from licensed and regulated modalities with a readily identifiable organization set-chiropractic, homeopathy, and natureopathy. Organizations were selected by key informants to represent successful and less well established organizations.^ Data gathering consisted of semi-structured interviews with the senior practitioner from alternative organizations and with informants from regulatory bodies, professional associations, and the legislature. Additional sources of information such as the Connecticut statutes, reports of professional organizations and the Department of Health Services, and federal publications were examined. Comparative analysis of organizations focused on provider and organizational history in addition to regulatory and association impact on establishment.^ The economics and politics of the medical care system was found to determine support of alternative health organizations. For example, federal investment in health led to inflated costs and cost control. One professional association was modifying its orientation toward financial structures in the organization set. Organizations in this modality felt most secure about their establishment efforts. Organizational characteristics most conducive to establishment included behaviors directed away from the immediate requirement for clientele toward public service activities. In summary, establishment was found to be dependent on a changing political economy as well as on the interaction of organizational characteristics with organization set support. ^