Use of complementary and alternative medicine for treatment among African-Americans: a multivariate analysis

Jamie C Barner, Thomas M Bohman, Carolyn M Brown, Kristin M Richards
Research in Social & Administrative Pharmacy: RSAP 2010, 6 (3): 196-208

BACKGROUND: The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is substantial among African-Americans; however, research on characteristics of African-Americans who use CAM to treat specific conditions is scarce.

OBJECTIVE: To determine what predisposing, enabling, need, and disease-state factors are related to CAM use for treatment among a nationally representative sample of African-Americans.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study design was employed using the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). A nationwide representative sample of adult (> or =18 years) African-Americans who used CAM in the past 12 months (n=16,113,651 weighted; n=2,952 unweighted) was included. The Andersen Health Care Utilization Model served as the framework with CAM use for treatment as the main outcome measure. Independent variables included the following: predisposing (eg, age, gender, and education); enabling (eg, income, employment, and access to care); need (eg, health status, physician visits, and prescription medication use); and disease state (ie, most prevalent conditions among African-Americans) factors. Multivariate logistic regression was used to address the study objective.

RESULTS: Approximately 1 in 5 (20.2%) who used CAM in the past 12 months used CAM to treat a specific condition. Ten of the 15 CAM modalities were used primarily for treatment by African-Americans. CAM for treatment was significantly (P<.05) associated with the following factors: graduate education, smaller family size, higher income, region (northeast, midwest, west more likely than south), depression/anxiety, more physician visits, less likely to engage in preventive care, more frequent exercise behavior, more activities of daily living (ADL) limitations, and neck pain.

CONCLUSIONS: Twenty percent of African-Americans who used CAM in the past year were treating a specific condition. Alternative medical systems, manipulative and body-based therapies, and folk medicine, prayer, biofeedback, and energy/Reiki were used most often. Health care professionals should routinely ask patients about the use of CAM, but when encountering African-Americans, there may be a number of factors that may serve as cues for further inquiry.

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