US ranked high in adoption of alternative therapies

A team of researchers from New Zealand combed through population health surveys from a number of jurisdictions to see what the adoption rate for complementary and alternative health strategies was in a number of countries.  Their analysis was published this week in the journal Drug Safety.

For their underlying data set the researchers used various long term, large scale observational studies.  The researchers screened more than 2,000 references to arrive at 65 national health surveys (plus a few more identified after the initial screening), of which 40 made the final cut for their analysis.

Which definition?

One key issue to address was the definition of ‘traditional, complementary and alternative medicine’ (the authors use the acronym (T)CAM) that might be applied to all of the studies.  The authors noted that a number of such health surveys around the world have adopted the definition put out by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the United States.  That body defines (T)CAM as “a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.”

The authors said (T)CAM “includes products (e.g. herbal medicines, dietary supplements) and therapies/practices (e.g. chiropractic, acupuncture).”

NHANES data among information used

Among the high profile surveys the authors included in their analysis were several iterations of NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) in the US covering the years from 1988 to 2012, as well as four iterations of NHIS (National Health Interview Survey).  A survey conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) was also included.