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J Natl Med Assoc. 2003 Oct; 95(10): 943–950.
PMCID: PMC2594497

Use of CAM in local African-American communities: community-partnered research.


Although previous national surveys have shown an increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the U.S. population, racial and ethnic minority populations were under-represented in these surveys. As a result, a profile of the CAM user as white, female, affluent, middle-aged and well educated has emerged. Representing the mainstream population, these previous studies did not take into account the racial and ethnic minority populations who may have their own healing traditions and who may hold different beliefs, use different terminology, and have unique patterns of CAM use. In partnership with community-based organizations and community residents, a culturally sensitive survey instrument and protocols were designed and tested to gather data on lower income, urban African-Americans' use of, attitudes toward, and understanding of CAM. The major findings of this pilot research are 1.) Community-partnered research can help researchers gain access to sensitive data and design culturally appropriate studies; 2.) CAM terminology varies by cultural group; 3.) Certain forms of CAM (folk or family practices) are commonly found in African-American populations; and 4.) Factors that affect CAM use--including age, lack of access to conventional medicine, cultural heritage, and dissatisfaction with conventional medicine.

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