Organizers of this weekend’s NWT Wellness Conference say they are not giving ‘quack medicine’ undue prominence.
The three-day conference begins with a keynote speech from Pahan Pte San Win in Dettah on Friday evening, before two days of workshops and panels at Yellowknife’s Sir John Franklin School, alongside a resource fair.
However, a column in the city’s Edge YK magazine claimed the conference would provide “a platform for purveyors of disproven and discredited therapy systems to promote themselves on an equal footing with people providing legitimate health advice”.
Contributor Jeremy Flatt wrote: “There is absolutely no evidence that cold laser therapy, energy healing, homeopathy, or even acupuncture, provide any medical benefits whatsoever.
“Yet at the wellness conference you’ll find a booth belonging to a company named Quantum Wave, who sell home cold laser therapy kits, next to the NWT Regional Health and Safety Committee booth, the Health Canada booth and the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority booth.
“What does this say about the value the organizers and sponsors place on distinguishing legitimate, scientifically proven medicine from quack therapies?”
In response, conference coordinator Sylvie Francoeur said Flatt had misunderstood the place alternative therapies will occupy at the event.
“We’re not talking about [giving alternative therapies] the same platform,” Francoeur told Moose FM.
“You do need to go to the hospital and the emergency room, we all need operations and antibiotics. We’re not saying we don’t need public healthcare and that approach to medicine, we all need it at some point.
“But to avoid getting to that point, there are some things we can do. Preventative measures.”
Francoeur used Sunday’s panel on cancer prevention treatments as an example.
“When you come to the cancer panel you are going to hear a physician that’s going to talk about treatment, so chemotherapy and things like that, which is necessary,” she said.
“But you’ll also have a naturopath who will talk about ways to help deal with the side effects of chemo. Energy medicine, or naturopathic food, and physical activity can help to counter the side effects of chemo.”
Flatt – noting the recent death of Makayla Sault, an aboriginal girl in Manitoba who died after abandoning conventional treatment for leukaemia – wrote: “We should be challenging people who peddle nonsense for profit at the expense of the weak. Instead, Yellowknife is welcoming them.”
Read and listen: White Coat, Black Art on Makayla Sault’s treatment
But Francoeur said the conference’s definition of ‘wellness’ extends beyond basic healthcare to mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, hence the inclusion of a wide range of practitioners.
“We make sure these people have the right credentials,” she said. “We want to make sure they are accredited in whatever modality they’re using and are at the top of their profession – they’re not just speaking out of nowhere.
“The cold laser therapy guy – the first time he came to the conference, we said, ‘Whoa’. We hadn’t heard about it.
“We did a little research and looked into him and interviewed him, and said, ‘No, this guy’s legit’. He’s bringing something that some people have benefited from.”