CAMbrella meets in Berlin

After working on their "pan-European research network for complementary and alternative Medicine" for almost a year, the members of CAMbrella decided that it was time for the group to meet again in person. As a high-profile conference that is a must for the entire CAM community, the 3rd European Congress for Integrative Medicine was the perfect occasion. The CAMbrella working groups scheduled their meetings for December 2, 2010, the day before the conference opening. All meetings were neatly arranged to fit into a tight but manageable schedule, and CAM experts from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the UK headed off to Berlin in due time. The weather gods, however, had other plans: they cast an icy spell on Europe around that time, and air travel was severely hampered or halted altogether. Once in Berlin, getting to Charité Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics was another challenge as the weather conditions had stopped suburban trains, too.

Anyone who made it to the seminar room in Luisenstrasse was greeted with a very warm welcome – quite literally, as the CAMbrella group had decided to stay together and not split up until the missing members had arrived. The time was used to discuss potential overlaps between work packages, e.g. Work Package 2 and WP 5, both of which deal with legal issues – national health legislation on the one hand, regulations on education and professional conduct on the other – and thus needed to decide where to draw the line. By early afternoon, all members had finally arrived (although their luggage had not, in some cases). The tight schedule was revised to account for the lost hours, and the CAMbrella group split up to work on the various tasks: WP 1 (Terminology and definitions) discussed the content of its first deliverable and distributed some final tasks among the members; WP 3 (Citizens' needs and attitudes) recapitulated the procedure of literature search and decided on study inclusion criteria; WP 4 (The patients' perspective) discussed the implementation of their review protocol and aspects of a questionnaire; WP 5 reviewed the figures gathered so far on the provision of CAM in the various EU countries and discussed strategies to account for the differences in the availability of data; and WP 7, in preparation of the roadmap for future CAM research, dealt with review protocols and concepts in CAM research methodology. All groups worked through their agenda, and by evening, concluded Thursday's meetings on time – probably the only precision landing that day.

Friday morning saw the opening of the Congress on "The Future of Comprehensive Patient Care" and more CAMbrella meetings in the conference hotel rooms: WP 6 (The global perspective) met to review the results of the interviews with global stakeholders in CAM research; WP 2 held part 2 of its workshop and discussed the challenges of getting valid and up-to-date information on the legal regulation of CAM in the various EU member countries. Having concluded these morning meetings, the members of CAMbrella ventured out to join the congress sessions, hold a lecture in some cases, meet the numerous healthcare experts present, and look at the posters displayed. The Congress offered a wealth of high-profile contributions on cancer, pain, mental disorders, atopic diseases, patient-physician relationship and placebo, primary care and education, so deciding where to go was a difficult task. For the members of WP 8 (Dissemination and communication), however, the choice was an easy one in the afternoon. They gathered for the last of the CAMbrella meetings, reviewed the past year's dissemination activities and discussed strategies to inform stakeholders and the general public on CAMbrella.

The second day of the ECIM was filled with just as many interesting sessions, workshops, symposia and case conferences as the first one, so the CAMbrella members again used the opportunity to hear about and discuss recent developments and latest results of CAM research. By Saturday afternoon, the last pieces of missing luggage had finally arrived, too, just in time to be taken home by their owners. So after a third busy day in Berlin, the members of CAMbrella eventually prepared for the journey home. This time, the weather gods were in their favour: traveling home was smooth and easy, and Austria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the UK got their CAM experts back safely - and on time.

Text: Monika Schagerl