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Alternative Health Practices Gain Popularity in US Children

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine are getting busier. According to a 2007 American health survey, increasing numbers of children are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for wellness and recovery from illness. The most popular use of alternative health practice in the US includes the use natural supplements, such as flaxseed oil, omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine and ginseng. One in nine US children are using natural health products, chiropractic or osteopathic care, yoga, and deep breathing for better health.

Though CAM use in adults has remained steady when compared to 2002 statistics, the survey, developed by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) found that more Americans are embracing meditation, deep breathing, massage therapy and Yoga for wellness or recovery from illness.

The survey asked study participants to share their health and illness-related experiences, and for the first time the survey included children. Over 23,300 interviews with American adults were conducted, including over 9,400 interviews with adults on behalf of a child in the household.

Provider delivered CAM therapies included acupuncture, chiropractic care, and osteopathic manipulative therapy. Other complementary and alternative forms of healthcare included the use of herbal supplements and 26 additional CAM therapies that do not require a healthcare provider.

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The overall results show that adult use of complementary and alternative medicine held steady at 36%, compared to 2002 surveys conducted in 2002. Women were more likely than were men to use alternative medicine (42.8 percent women, 33.5 percent, men). The survey revealed that 55.4 percent of adults who use alternative medicine possess a masters, degree, PhD, or other professional license.

One in nine children were directed to CAM therapy, primarily for anxiety, ADD, stress, back and neck pain, and chest colds. The survey showed that children who receive complementary or alternative medicine came from households where an adult or relative also use some sort of alternative medicine. Other complementary therapies included the use of probiotics or prebiotics, natural health non-vitamin supplements such as flaxseed oil, fish oil/DHA, echinacea, and combination herbals. Approximately 2% of children in surveyed households engage in Yoga and deep-breathing exercises. Chiropractic and Osteopathic care was found in 2.8% of children.

“These statistics confirm that CAM practices are a frequently used component of Americans' health care regimens, and reinforce the need for rigorous research to study the safety and effectiveness of these therapies. The data also point out the need for patients and health care providers to openly discuss CAM use to ensure safe and coordinated care," says Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of NCCAM. Thirty-eight percent of adults currently use complementary and alternative medicine, shown by the 2007 statistics.

The message is clear – complementary and alternative medicine use is gaining popularity, but studies about the safety and efficacy of some are still in question. Research is sorely needed for healthcare consumers to help us all sort through which complementary and alternative therapies have proven benefit.

Speak with your doctor about any CAM therapies that you use for individual health and wellness. Herbal supplements can interact with traditional prescriptions, making it important to work closely with your healthcare provider when making choices about using complementary or alternative forms of healthcare.

According to a New Government Survey, 38 Percent of Adults and 12 Percent of Children Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine