J Altern Complement Med. 1998 Spring; 4(1): 17-27.
Chinese medicine users in the United States. Part I: Utilization, satisfaction, medical plurality.
OBJECTIVES: Chinese medicine is growing in popularity and offers an important alternative or complement to biomedical care, but little is known of who uses it or why they purchase it. This article reports the first in-depth, large-scale (n = 575) survey of United States acupuncture users. DESIGN: An anonymous mixed quantitative-qualitative survey questionnaire assessed user demographics, Chinese medicine modalities used, complaints, response to care, other health-care used, and satisfaction with care in six general-service clinics in five states. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The user demographic picture was of mid-age, well-educated, employed, mid-income patients. They sought care for a wide variety of conditions; top uses were for relief of musculoskeletal dysfunction, mood care, and wellness care. A large majority reported "disappearance" or "improvement" of symptoms, improved quality of life, and reduced use of selected measures including prescription drugs and surgery. Respondents reported utilizing a wide array of practices in addition to Chinese medicine, while also expressing extremely high satisfaction with Chinese medicine care. The evidence indicates that these respondents behave as astute consumers within a plural health care system. Part II (in press) details reasons given for satisfaction and situates respondent attitudes within a larger sociocultural framework.