Tomorrow I am speaking at a conference on the subject of integrative health - I guess in may capacity as the creator of the Family Health Diary and publisher of WellSpring. It will be an interesting day, attended by a spectrum of wellness professionals from general practitioners and chiropractors to pharmacists and naturopaths. Should be fun. I have prepared some material that should put the cat amongst the pigeons.

I guess one of my greatest concerns about the concept of integration is that human nature always has a negative effect. Rather than a harmonious, homogeneous whole forming, there tends to be territorialism and power plays. In the mid 90s I sold my business to a larger agency that promoted an integrated model. "We can", they said"take care of all of your communications requirements." At which point they would reveal an organisational chart that, for all intent and purpose, looked like a multi -tentacled kraaken grasping at every budget morsel that was available. While many clients like the idea of a one-stop-shop, the reality is that most could see little advantage in asking a generalist agency to perform specialist tasks. In addition, by eliminating competition for their projects from, say, designers or direct marketing specialists they ran the risk of having only very ordinary materials prepared. The input of many creative talents, from many different sources was seen as a stimulus for their business. Arguing that consolidating their budgets with one agency would offer cost advantages had little effect. Most marketing people actual want to spend their budgets in order to have them increased the following year. Sad but true.

Another distortion in the integration lens is professional jealousy - rivalry for the dominant position. Who decides how much of the budget should go into brand advertising and how much should go to the web? Let's face it, if you go to a design specialist and ask for a solution to a marketing problem there is a better than average chance that you will get a design recommendation. As Emerson said " If all you have is a hammer, every problem likes like a nail." Not only that, and perhaps this isn't quite so true today as it once was, but advertising people despise direct marketing, brand people hate retail advertising...Just kidding, on reflection it's just as true today as it always was.

In the realm of wellness I know one thing is for sure. Unless the person is placed squarely in the centre of our thinking then, despite the best intentions in the world, the infighting and back biting will erupt as inevitably as a pimple on the night before the prom. We have to empower the consumer, offer them choices and support their choice. The framework has to loose/tight (was that a Tom Petersism back in the 80's?). People respect being treated as human beings, not economic units.
There will need to a clear manifesto that binds the members together in a shared cause. We will have to have a common language and way of interpreting things that are a mystery to us (accepting that some practitioners will oppose immunisation while others will advocate for it - and other dilemmas). Without unity on the things that can be agreed then integration will soon become disintegration. Time will tell. Tomorrow I will be the devil's advocate. What is the worst that can happen - I've been tarred and feathered before.


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