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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