Sunday, August 2, 2009

Popularity of CAM in the U.S.

Despite skeptical outcry, Americans continue to utilize complementary and alternative practices, although the level of use may be plateauing....

"Approximately 38 percent of adults use some form of CAM for health and wellness or to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, according to data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)....CAM accounts for approximately 1.5 percent of total health care expenditures ($2.2 trillion2) and 11.2 percent of total out-of-pocket expenditures (conventional out-of-pocket: $286.6 billion2 and CAM out-of-pocket: $33.9 billion1) on health care in the United States. "

Full story here:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/159430.php

2 comments:

  1. I respectfully disagree with the 38% figure. Co-opting well documented, legitimate, mainstream medical practices (such as nutrition) artificially inflates the figures. And including religious practices (such as 'prayers for healing') also boosts the numbers artificially. The numbers of people using the 'hard-core' CAM modalities like homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, etc. is miniscule.

    Others have said it better than me:

    www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=437

    and

    health.usnews.com/blogs/comarow-on-quality/2008/12/12/alternative-medicines-rapid-spread-nonsense.html

    Opinion:
    1. If a person is hoping to validate their decision to use or prescribe CAM based on 'everyone else is doing it,' then you're fooling yourself.
    2. Mainstream journalists are generally lazy, and they just repackage press releases without much research or analysis. This is nothing new.

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  2. Interesting responses to the study. I would suggest that the first at neurologicablog is hopelessly biased. To quote Wallace Sampson as a reasonable foil to a scientifically conducted survey is laughable. Anyone who states categorically that acupuncture is a placebo has lost all credibility. Sorry, but when expert panels at WHO and NIH acknowledge benefit from acupuncture, one M.D. who claims to be an expert on the literature from all alternative medicine just can't be given credence.

    At any rate, to your opinions:
    "If a person is hoping to validate their decision to use or prescribe CAM based on 'everyone else is doing it,' then you're fooling yourself."

    Sure, but studies show that people seek medical therapies based on the experiences and advice of friends and neighbors. The rise of Web 2.0 and social media are both encouraging this human trait, and leading to a shift in the relationship of doctors and patients. There are those who suggest that these social groups learn and develop medical savvy very efficiently and are very good source of information.

    While that doesn't mean the advice of friends and neighbors is medically sound, it does recognize the influence of society. And the study itself showed that there acupuncture visits increased 3X over visits in 1997 while visits to energy/relaxation therapists decreased significantly. Is this the result of a culture learning what works and what doesn't, even in the absence of 'adequate' study?

    "Mainstream journalists are generally lazy, and they just repackage press releases without much research or analysis. This is nothing new."

    Completely agreed. Just the same, the article I originally posted pretty much reports what the survey reports, which focuses on costs.

    Just another note - if you take the small numbers ferreted at by the guy at the neurobiologica blog and apply it to pet owners.... well, let's try one:

    Acupuncture - if 1.4% of the 300,000,000+ people in the U.S. used it in 2007, that's over 4,000,000 people. Statistics suggest that half of Americans own a pet, so that's 2,000,000, and of those, many will seek the same kind of care for themselves as they do themselves.

    That's a lot of visits to veterinary acupuncturists, but let's just say that half of those will see a vet acupuncturist. If you take an average cost of acupuncture treatment by a veterinarian at $65, that's over $6,000,000 being spent on acupuncture for pets. I'm not aware of AVMA doing surveys like that, but if numbers like this are at issue, I think it's quite significant.

    And for anyone who wants to read the original NIH study on costs of care in CAM, here it is:
    http://nccam.nih.gov/news/camstats/costs/nhsrn18.pdf

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