J Rural Health. 2003 Summer; 19(3): 279-84.
Use of and attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine among family practice patients in small rural Illinois communities.
Family Practice Center, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, USA.
CONTEXT: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use continues to increase in the United States. Data on rural patients' use and extent of integration of CAM with conventional medicine are lacking, although this is a population often associated with use of "folk remedies" and self-care strategies. PURPOSE: To examine rural primary care patients' attitudes toward and use of CAM. METHODS: A total of 176 surveys (70% response rate) were returned by patients at 5 geographically dispersed, rural Illinois family practice clinics to examine rural patients' use of, attitudes toward, and experiences with alternative medicine and providers. FINDINGS: Nearly two thirds of patients reported use of alternative medicine. Therapies most often used were vitamins/megavitamins, chiropractic, relaxation, and prayer/faith healing. Rural patients with more medical problems and a higher level of education were more likely to use alternative techniques. Three fifths of the patients felt that their doctor should discuss alternative medicine and therapies with them. CONCLUSIONS: Physician understanding and communication regarding CAM may be especially important in rural areas, where access to care is more limited and where there is greater reliance on the primary care physician as a "gatekeeper" for patient health.