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Use and Perceived Effectiveness of Complementary Health Approaches in Children

Use and Perceived Effectiveness of Complementary Health Approaches in Children

All residents doctors in Canada are required to work on a research project, and I was excited to apply my research/epidemiology training towards an issue that is particularly important in pediatric medicine: why parents use complementary/alternative medicine, and more importantly, perceptions on how effective various therapies and approaches might be.

My research team, led by Dr. Roger Zemek and Dr. Sunita Vohra, was excellent, and brought a variety of expertise in both emergency medicine (which was the population we surveyed) and integrative pediatrics. We worked with some excellent biostatisticians and epidemiologists as well, and were able to present at two different conferences, publish two papers, and write about our findings for the New York Times. It was a testament to the power of having a great team with skills that complement each other, with shared goals and values.

Here’s what we found:

~ About 62% of participants used complementary health approaches (CHA) for their children over the previous 12 months, with vitamins/minerals and massage being particularly common. And higher parental education was associated with a higher odds of using CHA, and most parents believed that the CHA used was effective.

~ When it came to acute conditions that required an emergency room visit, about 29% of caregivers used CHA within the previous 72hours specifically for that complaint, and use for gastrointestinal complaints was most common.

~ Open and honest discussions between parents/caregivers and their doctors about CHA are crucial, and in our NYT article myself and my research supervisors outline some of our suggestions.