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Soc Sci Med. 1997 May; 44(9): 1341-8.

Nonconventional medicine in Israel: consultation patterns of the Israeli population and attitudes of primary care physicians.

Bernstein JH, Shuval JT.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

This paper reports the findings of a study of nonconventional medicine in Israel. Data regarding patterns and correlates of consultations with alternative medicine practitioners were obtained from structured face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 2030 Jewish adults aged 45 to 75. In addition, in-depth open-ended interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 20 primary care physicians in order to explore their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors regarding nonconventional medicine. Six percent of the respondents interviewed in the population study visited an alternative practitioner in the year prior to the interview. For most of them, the consultation was a consequence of disappointment with the lack of success of conventional medical treatment. Most felt that the alternative medicine treatment had helped. Nearly 40% were seeing their regular primary care physician at the same time as they were seeing an alternative medical practitioner. Women were more likely than mean to consult an alternative medicine practitioner; consulters rated their health status more negatively than non-consulters. Consulters had a higher level of education than non-consulters, but the two groups did not differ in terms of age or economic status. Nearly all of the physicians stated that they refer patients to alternative practitioners; in most cases, the referrals are in response to patients' requests. Although skeptical of the scientific basis of alternative medicine therapies, most of the physicians believed that some therapies, even if only because of the "placebo effect", were effective in some cases. Almost all felt that the Ministry of Health, which today does not recognize any form of alternative medicine, should establish control over the training and practice of alternative medical practitioners. The findings from both parts of the study suggest that patients and primary care physicians in Israel do not view nonconventional medicine as a threat to conventional medicine, but rather as complementary to it.

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