The pattern of alternative medicine use among patients attending health centers in military community in Riyadh.
Eiad A. Al-Faris,MRCGP, Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, KingSaud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Background: Alternative Medicine (AM) is gaining popularity worldwide.
Objectives: This study was conducted to determine the prevalence and pattern of AM use in a military sector of the Saudi community.
Correspondence to: Dr. Eiad A. Al-Faris, Associate Professor and Consultant, Family Medicine, Department of Family & Community Medicine (34), College of Medicine, King Saud University, P.O. Box 2925, Riyadh 11461
Methods: Three hundred and ten adult patients, visiting their family physicians over 6 weeks from the 1st of June 1998, were selected by systematic random sampling. They were asked to report worrying health problems and their use of modern medicine (MM) and AM.
Results: Forty-six percent of the patients had used AM before and about 19% had used it in the past 12 months. Alternative medicine practitioners were visited by 16.5% of the study population. Herbal medicine users represented 8.7% of the study population, honey (4.5%), the black grain Nigella sative (3%) and cautery was used by one person only.
Women, housewives and the illiterate were more likely to use AM. About 86% of all the study population preferred MM. The main source of information about AM was relatives (77%). A large proportion of patients who reported depression used AM (53%) or visited AM practitioners (33%). The average cost per visit to an AM pratitioner (166 Saudi Riyals) was higher than that in the USA ($27.60=100 Saudi Riyals).
Conclusion: There is a need to educate the public through the media and health professionals on the appropriate use of AM; housewives and the illiterate should be targeted. A community-based household survey using interviewers not associated with the health system such as teachers (to avoid bias) is needed.
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