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Spirituality and Health SIG News

Crystal L. Park, PhD, Spirituality and Health SIG Chair

The Spirituality and Health SIG has several traditions at the SBM Annual Meeting to provide opportunities for mingling. More than two dozen people attended the Spirituality and Health SIG breakfast roundtable at the 2010 Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA to introduce themselves, hear a bit about the interesting work others are doing, and network. We also had a midday meeting in which a formal talk was presented (this year by yours truly), with a focus on bringing people together over a substantive topic relevant to our common interests. This year the topic was religious/spiritual coping and health. Every other year (or so) we give a New Investigator award; this coming year, we will be taking nominations and will be seeking nominees through the listserv. The awardee and runners-up will be invited to give presentations at the 2011 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Presentations on spirituality and health were abundant at SBM 2010, and the sophistication, thoughtfulness and breadth of this research continues to grow. One additional exciting (albeit still preliminary) development for SBM 2011 is a Spirituality and Health SIG Pre-Conference Workshop. Still in the planning stages, we are hoping to offer a workshop that will provide more in-depth study and interaction, perhaps in conjunction with another SIG.

An issue on the minds of many that came up during our roundtable was the outlook for funding on research on religion and health. An interesting and perhaps pessimistic fact is that the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) no longer considers prayer a CAM modality. Using data from the 2002 National Health Information Survey (NHIS), NCCAM (2004) reported that prayer for oneself was by far the CAM modality most used by Americans (prayer for others and prayer groups were numbers 2 and 5, respectively). In the 2007 NHIS, questions on prayer were asked again; this time, however, NCCAM decided that "Following the taxonomy of unconventional health care proposed by Kaptchuk and Eisenberg (15), folk medicine practices (e.g., covering a wart with a penny then burying the penny, treating a cold with chicken soup) and religious (faith) healing (e.g., praying for one's own health, or having others pray for one's health) are not included in the definition of CAM used in this report" (p. 2). Interestingly, Kaptchuk and Eisenberg describe ethnomedicine, spiritual healing, and miracles, but do not address prayer. Given that we will be having our meeting in Washington, DC next year, perhaps we can prevail upon some federal agencies to share their insights on this issue with us.

As our SIG matures and becomes a more integral part of the SBM experience for members, we are hoping to grow in many ways. For example, in the breakfast roundtable, the notion of a SIG Facebook page was raised. In addition, we e-publish a newsletter three times per year (contact Barbara A. Bremer, PhD at bab12@psu.edu if you would like to receive our newsletter or contribute to it). Please join us! I am very open to your ideas and involvement, so feel free to contact me at crystal.park@uconn.edu. Stay tuned for further details and remember that the deadline for SBM 2011 will be here before we know it!


  1. National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: The use of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States. 2004.
  2. Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States. 2007.
  3. National Center for Health Statistics: National health statistics reports, no. 12. Hyattsville, MD. 2008.