WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
Dec. 10, 2008 -- Thirty-eight percent of adults and 12% of children use
complementary and alternative medicine, new data from a nationwide government
The survey marks the first time information on the use of complementary and
alternative medicine (CAM) by children has been collected at the national
Researchers with the National Institutes of Health and the CDC asked more
than 23,000 adults about their use and 9,400 adults about their children’s use
of 36 non-vitamin or mineral CAM therapies, including herbal supplements,
acupuncture, visits to chiropractors, massage therapy, mediation, and even
“I think this study highlights the growing acceptance of many of these
therapies,” pediatrician Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH, of Wake Forest University
School of Medicine, tells WebMD.
Author of the book, The Holistic Pediatrician, Kemper says many
treatments considered alternative just a few years ago, including probiotics
for gastrointestinal complaints, are now widely recommended for children.
According to the survey findings:
Use of CAM was higher among teenagers (16.4%) than among younger children
(10.7%), and white children were more likely to use CAM (12.8%) than black
(5.9%) and Hispanic (7.9%) children.
Regionally, children living in Western states were most likely to use CAM
(14.4%); those living in the South were least likely to use them (8.8%).
“Children are generally much healthier than adults, so 12% usage can be seen
as quite high,” says study co-author Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, acting
director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s
(NCCAM’s) Division of Extramural Research.
The latest survey suggests that use of most complementary and alternative
medicine has neither increased nor declined significantly among adults over the
past six years, Nahin tells WebMD.
An exception was mind-body therapies like acupuncture, deep breathing,
meditation, massage therapy, and yoga, which were used by more adults in 2007
than in 2002.
As seen in earlier surveys, women were more likely than men to use CAM
therapies, and higher education and higher income was associated with higher
CAM usage among adults.
The survey also revealed that:
Nahin says conventional medicine often has little to offer people living
with chronic pain conditions like back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
“People use CAM for many different reasons -- philosophy of wellness, cost,
or to treat chronic conditions that are not helped by conventional treatments,”
he says. “As we study these therapies it is important to keep this in
SOURCES:Barnes, P.M., ‘CAM Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007, NIH
National Health Statistics Report, Dec. 10, 2008.Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, acting director, National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s Division of Extramural Research.Kathi J. Kemper, MD, pediatrician, Wake Forest University School of
Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C.
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