Complementary and alternative medicine use among a multiethnic sample of older adults with diabetes

Nancy E Schoenberg, Eleanor Palo Stoller, Cary S Kart, Adam Perzynski, Elizabeth E Chapleski
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice, and Policy 2004, 10 (6): 1061-6

OBJECTIVE: This study describes complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use for diabetes self-management among a multiethnic sample with an aim of better understanding lay perspectives on CAM's utility and determining whether CAM practices undermine conventional diabetes self-management.

DESIGN: During in-depth interviews with 80 older adults, data were collected on sociodemographics, the full range of self-management practices, and attitudes toward CAM. Analysis included descriptive measures of association and line-by-line coding.

SETTING/LOCATION: Trained interviewers recruited respondents from four health or social service sites. Sites were selected because they contained a large clientele of the targeted ethnic group and had been involved successfully in previous research studies.

SUBJECTS: Twenty (20) adults age 50 and older from each of the groups most adversely affected by diabetes (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, rural whites) participated in the study.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-management strategies (included CAM) were assessed through a semistructured interview guide. Structured instruments obtained data on sociodemographics and health history. The 15-item Summary of Diabetes Self-Care Activities Questionnaire (SDSCA) assessed the frequency of completing recommended self-management activities.

RESULTS: One in four elders reported using CAM, with respondents' cultural background associated with the CAM modality. We found no relationship between standard biomedical regimens and CAM use, supporting respondents' suggestion that CAM supplements rather than substitutes for biomedical self-management. Respondents suggested that use of CAM was limited by CAM's inaccessibility, and, underlying all, the dominance of conventional biomedical therapies that undermines belief in CAM's effectiveness.

CONCLUSION: Older adults with diabetes use a flexible configuration of diabetes-self-management techniques, including culturally specific CAM modalities. CAM use, however, occupies a limited role in diabetes self-management, largely because of the predominance of conventional biomedical regimens.

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