Evanston, IL – The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) continued its ongoing interactions with key health care and medical organizations with its attendance at the sixth annual Integrative Healthcare Symposium held in New York City February 25-27. The goal of the symposium was to create an environment for attendees to learn about the many facets of integrative medicine and then apply that knowledge to their practices or research.

“AMTA has attended these meetings for many years,” says new AMTA President Kathleen Miller-Read. “We were present to expand our knowledge of the realities of advancing integrative care in a particularly volatile time in national discussions on health care. It was also an opportunity to strengthen our work with coalitions and build bridges that will help massage therapy become more widely accepted within health care.”

AMTA, as well as many of the panelists at the symposium, participated in last February’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) Summit in Washington, DC where health care reform was discussed. This year’s symposium provided an update on those discussions, the current realities of health care reform and new opportunities for integrative practices. The panelists expressed how the process has become one of access to health care rather than reform. They encouraged the integrative community to continue to create successful models at the state and local levels, in hopes of eventual adoption on a federal level.

One of AMTA’s goals is for the health care community to acknowledge the value of massage therapy. To achieve that, the association works to increase understanding of the benefits of massage therapy in healthcare. AMTA has taken an approach of constant engagement with many health care organizations, as well as government agencies, over more than 15 years, to build credibility and a sense of trust. AMTA has learned through these many interactions that massage therapy must have solid research and more consistent licensing to be fully accepted in integrative care. “This is especially clear from our relationships with the National Institutes of Health and the American Medical Association,” say Miller-Read. “While it is a frustratingly slow process, let’s not forget it took decades for chiropractic and acupuncture to even get in the door.”

“AMTA understands the importance of fostering relationships among integrative and traditional health care practitioners,” says AMTA Director of Government and Industry Relations Bill Brown. “These coalition building efforts are the key to making strides within the health care community”

These relationships will help both the association and the profession achieve broader goals of greater integrative care and opportunities for massage therapists who seek to advance massage therapy within that environment and to influence its role in health.

In the past year, AMTA made great strides in its relationship with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The association was invited to be part of the Health Mind-Body Week, participated in the Holistic Health Fair in September 2009, provided educational information about massage therapy for the December issue of the NIH employee newsletter, recorded an NIH podcast on massage for stress relief, and submitted a letter to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) on its future strategic direction.

AMTA continues as a member of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC). The mission of ACCAHC is to create and sustain a network of national complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) educational organizations and agencies, which will promote mutual understanding, collaborative activities and interdisciplinary health care education. It engages and supports activities in the areas of education, clinical care, research and policy clarification, which will help transform the patient-experience through strengthening understanding and cooperation among educators, researchers, clinicians from distinct healthcare disciplines. AMTA has representatives on the board and the council of colleges/schools special interest group. The association also directly contributed to the newly-released “Clinicians’ and Educators’ Desk Reference on the Licensed and Complementary and Alternative Healthcare Professions”.
The Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) is a broad coalition of health care professionals and organizations driving public policy to ensure all Americans access to safe, high quality, integrated health care. AMTA is now a member of IHPC’s “Partners in Health”, an inter-disciplinary forum consisted of the various CAM and integrated health care professions. This structure provides a strong shared voice on a federal level, working to ensure all Americans have access to the full range of safe and regulated conventional, complementary and alternative health care professionals.

AMTA also maintains its representative to the American Medical Association (AMA) on its Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee. This committee serves in an advisory capacity to the AMA CPT Editorial Panel. In addition to the AMTA massage therapist representative, members of HCPAC include representatives from the professions of social work, athletic training, speech therapy, podiatry, pharmacy, optometry, occupational therapy, chiropractic, naturopathy, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, and nursing, as well as physician assistants and dieticians.

This relationship gives AMTA and the massage therapy profession input on review of CPT codes associated with massage therapy. It also ensures AMTA is consulted when codes are edited or introduced that relate to massage therapy. And, the AMTA representative builds relationships and educates other health care professionals, especially those in physical and rehabilitation medicine, about the application and integration of massage therapy in the health care setting.

The American Massage Therapy Association is actively engaged every day in advancing the profession. These relationships with the health care/medical communities provide a strong voice for those massage therapists who seek to work within health care, while recognizing and protecting the rights of those massage therapists who practice in other sectors of the massage therapy profession.

The American Massage Therapy Association is the largest non-profit, professional association serving massage therapists, massage students and massage schools. The association is directed by volunteer leadership and fosters ongoing, direct member-involvement through its 51 chapters. AMTA works to advance the profession through ethics and standards, the promotion of fair and consistent licensing of massage therapists in all states, and public education on the benefits of massage.