Exploring the role of complementary and alternative medicine in public health practice and training

Adam Burke, Karni Ginzburg, Kate Collie, Duchy Trachtenberg, Malik Muhammad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: Consumer use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States continues to expand. Although conventional medicine has responded actively, the response from public health has been far less pronounced. To examine the potential for integrating CAM into public health contexts, an exploratory survey was conducted. Design: A 19-item, self-administered survey instrument was used to collect participant data. Settings/location: Participants were surveyed at the 2003 American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting while attending CAM-related talks sponsored by the Alternative and Complementary Health Practices Special Interest Group (ACHP SPIG). Subjects: A convenience sample of 153 individuals was surveyed, which was predominantly female (81%) and Caucasian (68%), with an average age of 42 years. Outcome measures: The survey instrument included items about participant and client demographics, participant use of CAM (personal and professional), perceived client interest in CAM, and several attitude measures. Results: The majority of participants (64%) were currently employed as public health professionals working in a wide variety of settings with highly diverse populations. Personal use of CAM was high (66% using four or more modalities). The majority also reported integrating CAM into work settings. There was a significant relationship between personal and professional use of CAM. Participants overwhelmingly agreed that more professional training in this area was needed. Conclusions: This exploratory study provides insight into the potential role of CAM as an important resource in public health settings. Additional funding and research in this area is urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)931-936
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


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