Examining Alternative Medicine Use Among Elderly

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Studies look at use of alternative medicines among elderly blacks, and prostate screening predictors among older immigrant men.

* "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Older Urban African- Americans: Individual and Neighborhood Associations", Journal of the National Medical Association: The study, led by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, examines use of contemporary alternative medicine among blacks ages 60 and older. For the study, researchers conducted a telephone survey among 95 older blacks in Baltimore to ask them about their use of eight common contemporary alternative medicines -- individual prayer, herbal/home remedies, group spiritual practices, meditation/visualization, health massages, chiropractic, acupuncture and relaxation/biofeedback -- in the last year.

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Researchers found 88.4% surveyed used contemporary alternative medicines in the previous year. The most common used was individual prayer at 96%, herbal/home remedies at 29.5%, and group spiritual practices at 17%. About 77% said they reported their herbal/home remedies use to their physicians. Researchers concluded that while the use of contemporary alternative medicine was greater than expected and disclosure of herbal/home remedy use was high, providers should recognize that use is high and ask patients about their regimens (Ryder et al., Journal of the National Medical Association, October 2008).

* "Predictors of Prostate Cancer Screening Among Older Immigrant Men", Journal of the National Medical Association: The study, by researchers Njeri Kagotho and Jing Tan of Washington University in St. Louis' George Warren Brown School of Social Work, looks at predictors of prostate cancer screening among immigrant men ages 50 and older.

Researchers used sample data from the New Immigrant Survey gathered between June 2003 and June 2004. The sample included 701 men, 38% of whom had undergone a prostate exam. Using a modified version of a behavior model of health service used for vulnerable populations, researchers found that region of origin, access to medical care, age, education level and visa status were predictors of participants' likelihood of receiving a prostate exam. Researchers concluded that health care workers "should be cognizant of the role culture plays in preventive health care behaviors" among immigrant men (Kagotho/Tan, Journal of the National Medical Association, October 2008).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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