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J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 Apr;97(4):535-45.

Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies among racial and ethnic minority adults: results from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey.

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Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Osher Institute, Harvard Medical School, 401 Park Drive, Suite 22A-West, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among ethnic minority populations is poorly understood. We sought to examine CAM use in Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites.


We analyzed data from the Alternative Health Supplement to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), including information on 19 different CAM therapies used in the past 12 months.


An estimated 34% of Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white adults in the United States used at least one CAM therapy (excluding prayer) during the prior 12 months (2002). CAM use was highest for non-Hispanic whites (36%), followed by Hispanics (27%) and non-Hispanic blacks (26%). Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to use herbal medicine, relaxation techniques and chiropractic more frequently than Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks. After controlling for other sociodemographic factors, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black races/ethnicities were associated with less CAM use, with adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of 0.78 (0.70, 0.87) and 0.71 (0.65, 0.78), respectively. Hispanics cited using CAM because conventional medical treatments were too expensive more frequently than non-Hispanic blacks or whites. Hispanics had the highest provider nondisclosure rates (68.5%), followed by non-Hispanic blacks (65.1%) and non-Hispanic whites (58.1%).


Excluding prayer, Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks used CAM less frequently than non-Hispanic whites and were less likely to disclose their use to their healthcare provider. Further research is needed to improve our understanding of the disparities in CAM use.

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