Author(s): Mikhail N, Wali S, Ziment I
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Abstract OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and patterns of use of alternative medicine among urban Hispanics. DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey. SETTINGS/LOCATION: Churches located in the northern part of Los Angeles and outpatients and inpatients in a county hospital in southern California. SUBJECTS: 179 Hispanic subjects. OUTCOME MEASURES: The following issues related to alternative medicine were evaluated: frequency and reasons for its use; perceived efficacy; safety; costs; sources of information; overall satisfaction; and subject-physician interaction with respect to alternative medicine. RESULTS: Sixty-three percent (63\%) of respondents reported using or had used one or more types of alternative medicine. The majority of users were women (75\%, 95\% confidence interval [CI], 66\%-83\%). The most commonly reported alternative therapies were herbs (57\%, 95\% CI 47\%-66\%), prayer (43\%, 95\% CI 34\%-53\%), and dietary supplements (21\%, 95\% CI 14-30\%). Compared to nonusers, users of alternative medicine had significantly lower yearly income, less proficiency in English language, and lower educational level. The main indications for using alternative medicine were pain (61.4\%, 95\% CI 51\%-71\%), lack of energy (38.6\%, 95\% CI 29\%-49\%), and overweight (22.8\%, 95\% CI 16\%-33\%). Only 5.2\% of subjects (95\% CI 2\%-12\%) believed that herbs are more effective than medications prescribed by physician. A majority of users (61\%, 95\% CI 50\%-68\%) had more confidence in their physicians than in their alternative medicine provider. Forty-five percent (45\%) of users (95\% CI 34\%-56\%) believed prescribed medication was safer than alternative medicine, whereas only 7\% (95\% CI 3\%-15\%) believed the reverse. Adverse effects related to herbs and dietary supplements were reported by 11 users. The majority of participants (78.9\%, 95\% CI 69-87\%) did not speak to their physicians about alternative therapy. The mean score of overall satisfaction with conventional medicine was significantly higher than with alternative medicine. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the common use of alternative medicine among Hispanics, the majority of users believe that conventional medicine is superior to alternative medicine. There is a significant gap in communication between physicians and patients with respect to alternative medicine.
This article was published in J Altern Complement Med
and referenced in Epidemiology: Open Access