Complementary medicine in the primary care setting: Results of a survey of gender and cultural patterns in Israel

Gend Med. 2009 Jul;6(2):384-97. doi: 10.1016/j.genm.2009.07.002.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in a primary care practice in Israel to determine prevalence and patterns of use.

Methods: Trained research assistants invited all patients attending the administrative, medical, pharmaceutical, or nursing services of 7 clinics in urban and rural areas of northern Israel over a 16-month period, from April 1, 2005, through August 1, 2006, to complete a 13-item written questionnaire about CAM use and beliefs about CAM safety and efficacy. CAM was defined as therapies often referred to as alternative, complementary, natural, or folk/traditional medicine, and which are not usually offered as part of the medical treatment in the clinic, including herbal medicine, Chinese medicine (including acupuncture), homeopathy, folk and traditional remedies, dietary/nutritional therapy (including nutritional supplements), chiropractic, movement/manual healing therapies (including massage, reflexology, yoga, and Alexander and Feldenkrais techniques), mind-body techniques (including meditation, guided imagery, and relaxation), energy and healing therapies, and other naturopathic therapies. The Pearson chi(2) test and multivariate logistic regression were used to assess univariate associations with the odds ratios of CAM use among Arab and Jewish women. A t test was performed to determine whether there were any differences in the continuous variables between the 2 groups.

Results: Of 3972 consecutive patients who received the questionnaire, 3447 responded; 2139 respondents (62%) were women. Of the female respondents, 2121 reported their religion (1238 respondents [58%] self-identified as being Arab, and 883 [41.6%] as being Jewish). Compared with men, more women used CAM during the previous year (46.4% vs 39.4%; P < 0.001). Women were more likely to use CAM and to be interested in receiving CAM at primary care clinics. Arab women reported less CAM use than Jewish women but were more interested in experiencing CAM, had a higher degree of confidence in CAM efficacy and safety, and more frequently supported the integration of CAM practitioners in primary care clinics.

Conclusions: In this study, women visiting primary care clinics in northern Israel used CAM more often than men did. Arab women reported less use of CAM than did Jewish women but also reported greater confidence in CAM efficacy and safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arabs
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Jews
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • Sex Distribution