Pediatric use of complementary and alternative medicine

03/31/05

CHICAGO – Insured pediatric and adolescent patients account for only a small part of total insurance expenditures for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) but are more likely to use these therapies if their adult family members also use CAM professionals, according to an article in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Forty-two percent of adults reported the use of complementary and alternative medicine in a 1997 study and the rate of use is increasing, according to background information in the article. But little is known about the use of complementary and alternative medicine by children and adolescents.

Allen Bellas, Ph.D., of Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis, and colleagues analyzed 2002 claims data from two large private health insurers in Washington state. Because Washington state requires private insurers to cover claims for services from CAM-licensed professionals, insurance claims provide a database for investigating the frequency, predictors and expenditures for the use of complementary and alternative medicine by children and adolescents, according to the authors.

Of 187,323 insured children, 156,689 (83.6 percent) had any insurance claims during 2002, the researchers report. For those with claims, 6.2 percent used an alternative professional during the year, accounting for 1.3 percent of the total expenditures and 3.6 percent of expenditures for all outpatient professionals. "Although use of chiropractic and massage was almost always for musculoskeletal complaints, acupuncture and naturopathic medicine filled a broader role," the researchers found.

"We found that CAM use was significantly less likely for males…and more likely for children with cancer, children with low back pain, and children with adult family members who use CAM," the authors write. "Not surprisingly, the most significant factor that determined whether a pediatric patient would use CAM is whether an adult in the family used CAM. The effect of this covariate on the likelihood of a child's use dwarfed all others. This fact may guide professionals obtaining medical histories in the pediatric setting."

"Insured pediatric patients used CAM professional services, but this use was a small part of total insurance expenditures," the authors conclude. "Future studies are warranted to determine the extent to which pediatric CAM use will expand as a result of having insurance coverage."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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