Statcast Number 10 Transcript

Date: December 10, 2008

Publication: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007”

Announcer: We’re joined by Patricia Barnes, a health statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics. Patricia, in collaboration with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is the lead author for a new report about complementary and alternative medicine used by adults and children in the U.S. Patricia, about how many Americans use complementary and alternative medicine—CAM—therapy?

Patricia: In the United States, approximately 38% of adults are using CAM therapy, and approximately 12% of children who are aged 17 years and under.

Announcer: Is this the first time CAM therapy has been looked at?

Patricia: No actually, we also looked at CAM therapy back in 2004 using 2002 data. But at that time we only looked at adults. The survey in 2007 included children as well as adults.

Announcer: Has there been an increase since the last study?

Patricia: We can’t really say whether it’s an increase or not, since the surveys are not comparable. In 2007, we had asked some additional questions about some therapies that were not included in the 2002 survey. And in 2002, there were some CAM therapies that were not included in the 2007survey.

Announcer: Now, when we talk about CAM, what is the definition of this form of therapy?

Patricia: CAM covers quite a broad spectrum of new age and ancient approaches that supposedly prevent or treat disease, and complementary is considered interventions that are used along with conventional medicine, whereas alternative interventions are considered those that are used instead of conventional medicine.

Announcer: What are the most commonly-used CAM therapies?

Patricia: Well, for adults, the most commonly-used CAM therapies are herbal supplements, deep breathing exercises, and meditation. For children, the most common are herbal supplements, chiropractic care, and deep breathing exercises.

Announcer: So what are the types of health problems people are treating with CAM therapy?

Patricia: Well adults tend to use CAM therapy for back pain or problems, neck pain or problems, and joint pain or stiffness or some other joint condition, whereas children are using it more for back pain or neck pain, and head or chest colds, and anxiety or stress.

Announcer: Who is more likely to use this type of treatment?

Patricia: CAM use was more prevalent among women and among adults who were aged 30 to 69 years. CAM use was also more prevalent among adults who had higher levels of education and those who were not poor. Adults living in the west, those who were former smokers, and those who were hospitalized in the last year were also more likely to use CAM. Among children, girls were actually no more likely than boys to use some types of CAM therapy. Adolescents who were aged 12 to 17 years were more likely to use CAM than younger children. Children whose parents used CAM were also more likely to be CAM users.

Announcer: Is it possible that the high cost of health care is leading people to use CAM?

Patricia: In our study, we found that those who worried about the cost of conventional care, whether it was delayed or preventive, were more likely to use CAM and that was for both adults and children.

Announcer: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Patricia: I’d just like to mention that this is the first time we collected data on complementary and alternative medicine for children, so this will be a good foundation for us to build on for the future years for finding out more information about children and their CAM use.

Announcer: Our thanks to Patricia Barnes for joining us on this edition of “StatCast.” “StatCast” is produced by the Public Affairs Office at the National Center for Health Statistics.