Potential role of complementary and alternative health care providers in chronic disease prevention and health promotion: an analysis of National Health Interview Survey data

Prev Med. 2012 Jan;54(1):18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.07.002. Epub 2011 Jul 13.


Objective: To make a preliminary assessment of the potential role of the most frequently used licensed or certified United States complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers in chronic disease prevention and health promotion.

Method: This was a secondary analysis of the 2007 United States National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the most recent to include CAM use. The Adult Core Sample, Person and Adult Complementary and Alternative Medicine data files were included. NHIS's complete survey design structure (strata, cluster and survey weights) was applied in generating national population estimates for CAM usage.

Results: Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (8.4%) and massage (8.1%) were most commonly used; acupuncture was used by 1.4% and naturopathy by 0.3% of respondents. Substantial proportions of respondents reported using CAM for wellness and disease prevention, and informed their medical physician of use. Fifty-four percent were overweight or obese, 22.0% physically inactive, and 17.4% smokers; 18.0% reported hypertension, 19.6% high cholesterol, and 9.1% prediabetes or diabetes.

Conclusion: CAM users present with risk factors which are priority public health issues. This implies a need to train CAM providers in evidence-based health promotion counseling. CAM encounters may provide opportunities to coordinate health promotion and prevention messages with patients' primary care providers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allied Health Personnel*
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control*
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional Role*
  • United States
  • Young Adult