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J Health Commun. 2013;18 Suppl 1:290-7. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2013.830663.

Health literacy and complementary and alternative medicine use among underserved inpatients in a safety net hospital.

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a Department of Family Medicine , Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Nashville , Boston , Massachusetts , USA.


Little is known about the relationship between health literacy and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in low-income racially diverse patients. The authors conducted a secondary analysis of baseline data from 581 participants enrolled in the Re-Engineered Discharge clinical trial. The authors assessed sociodemographic characteristics, CAM use, and health literacy. They used bivariate and multivariate logistic regression to test the association of health literacy with four patterns of CAM use. Of the 581 participants, 50% reported using any CAM, 28% used provider-delivered CAM therapies, 27% used relaxation techniques, and 21% used herbal medicine. Of those with higher health literacy, 55% used CAM. Although there was no association between health literacy and CAM use for non-Hispanic Black participants, non-Hispanic White (OR = 3.68, 95% CI [1.27, 9.99]) and Hispanic/other race (OR = 3.40, 95% CI [1.46, 7.91]) participants were significantly more likely to use CAM if they had higher health literacy. For each racial/ethnic group, there were higher odds of using relaxation techniques among those with higher health literacy. Underserved hospitalized patients use CAM. Regardless of race, patients with high health literacy make greater use of relaxation techniques.

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