Objective: Determine the prevalence, patterns, costs, and predictors of visits to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers and subsequent remedy use in a nationally representative pediatric sample.
Methods: The 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey provided data on 7371 subjects < or =21 years of age. The primary outcome variable was CAM provider visits as defined by consulting a CAM provider "for health reasons." Predictors included sociodemographics, family resources, health status, parental CAM use, and perceptions and use of conventional medical care. Bivariate analyses and logistic regression determined independent factors associated with CAM use.
Results: Overall, 2.0% used CAM. Only 12.3% disclosed this use to their usual source of care (USC). The most common providers were chiropractors and clergy or spiritualists. The most common therapies were herbal remedies and spiritual healing. Mean amount spent per person on CAM visits was 73.40 US dollars and on remedies was 13.06 US dollars. Weighted estimates to the national pediatric population of annual expenditures on CAM visits and remedies were 127 million US dollars and 22 million US dollars, respectively. Significant factors independently associated with CAM visits were female gender, older age, good and very good perceived physical health as compared with excellent health, parental CAM use, and dissatisfaction with the quality of care received from the USC.
Conclusions: Two percent of parents reported that their children consulted a CAM provider and rarely disclosed this use to their USC. While dissatisfaction with the quality of care by the USC and less good perceived physical health predicted CAM visits, parental CAM use was the most predictive.