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J Am Med Womens Assoc. 1999 Fall;54(4):193-5.

Use of complementary and alternative medicine among African-American and Hispanic women in New York City: a pilot study.

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  • 1Center for Population and Family Health, Joseph Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA.



To explore the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among African-American and Hispanic women residing in New York City, including use of specific treatments and practitioners, perceived effectiveness of CAM, and culturally specific words or expressions for CAM.


Focus groups were conducted with two groups of African-American and two groups of Hispanic women (age 18-40 and 41-80) as preparation for the development of a quantitative instrument to assess the prevalence and determinants of CAM use among women of various ethnic backgrounds. Participants were recruited using a standard random digit dial procedure.


The most commonly used CAM remedies were teas and herbs, vitamins and nutritional supplements, prayer and spiritual healing, meditation and relaxation techniques. Practitioners most frequently seen were chiropractors, herbalists, and acupuncturists. Use of alternative remedies and practitioners, particularly the latter, was most common among older women in both groups. Younger Hispanic women reported the most skepticism toward CAM, especially when it was used by relatives as a substitute for conventional medical care. Overall, these African-American and Hispanic women used CAM for a wide range of health conditions and for prevention. Few racial and ethnic differences emerged in patterns of CAM use for either self-care or treatment by practitioners, but there was a distinct age variation, especially in attitudes toward CAM.

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