Pediatricians' Experience With and Attitudes Toward Complementary/Alternative Medicine

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Abstract

Objective

To assess (1) pediatricians' attitudes toward and practice of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for their patients; (2) their knowledge, experience, and referral patterns for selected CAM therapies; and (3) their desire for continuing medical education courses on CAM therapies.

Method

An anonymous, self-report, 25-item questionnaire was mailed to fellows of the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Results

Of 860 pediatricians, 348 (40.5%) responded; their median age ranged from 35 to 45 years, 54.3% were men, 67.6% were white, 67.9% were general pediatricians, and 65.2% were trained in the United States. Of the respondents, 83.5% believed their patients use CAM therapies, but 55.1% believed this constituted less than 10% of patients. Of the pediatricians who talked about CAM (53.8%), 84.7% said the discussion was initiated generally by the patient's family. More than half of the physicians (55.2%) said they would use CAM therapies personally, and 50.3% would refer for CAM therapies. Therapies referred for were biofeedback (23.6%), self-help groups (23.3%), relaxation (14.9%), hypnosis (13.8%), and acupuncture or acupressure (10.9%). Of the physicians who responded, 54.1% were interested in continuing medical education courses on CAM therapies. White respondents, US medical school graduates, and general pediatricians were most likely to believe their patients use CAM and discuss or refer for CAM therapies (P<.01). Female pediatricians were most likely to discuss or refer for CAM and to want more continuing medical education on CAM therapies (P<.05).

Conclusions

A majority of pediatricians sampled believed a small percentage of their patients were seeking alternatives to conventional medicine. Half would consider referring patients for CAM, and most were interested in continuing medical education courses on CAM. Larger studies surveying pediatricians, along with more education and research on CAM therapies, need to be considered for the future.

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