Date posted: June 3, 2012

Pattern of alternative medicine use among patients attending health centres in a military community in Riyadh  

Eiad A. Al-Faris,MRCGP, Department  of Family  and  Community  Medicine,  College of Medicine, King Saud 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. Box2925, Riyadh 11461

Methods:  Three hundred and ten adult patients, visiting their family physicians over 6 weeks from the 1  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.

Key Words: Alternative medicine, Saudi Arabia, Media education.

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