Alternative Therapy Use by Elderly African Americans Attending a Community Clinic

Authors

  • Shelley A. Sternberg MD, MS, FRCCP,

    1. From the *Department of Medicine, Section of Geriatrics, and Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; and University of Tennessee School of Medicine, Memphis, Tennessee.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Anjana Chandran,

    1. From the *Department of Medicine, Section of Geriatrics, and Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; and University of Tennessee School of Medicine, Memphis, Tennessee.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Monica Sikka

    1. From the *Department of Medicine, Section of Geriatrics, and Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; and University of Tennessee School of Medicine, Memphis, Tennessee.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Dr. Sternberg was supported by Geriatric Academic Career Award 5K01 HP 0006. Presented as a poster at the Gerontological Society of America 54th annual meeting, Nov. 15–18, 2001, Chicago, IL.

Address correspondence to Shelley Sternberg, MD, Hatayassim 38/1, Jerusalem, Israel 92509. E-mail: ssternbe@hotmail.com

Abstract

Objectives: To describe the use of orally ingested alternative therapies (OAT) by a community-dwelling, primarily African-American sample of elders.

Design: Face-to-face survey.

Setting: University-affiliated geriatric medicine primary care clinic.

Participants: One hundred two elderly OAT users and 100 nonusers who had an appointment between June and August 2000.

Measurements: Demographic characteristics, OAT products used, reasons for use, and influencing factors leading to use.

Results: Two hundred ninety-two subjects were screened: 102 (35%) OAT users, 100 (34%) nonusers, and 90 (31%) who refused to participate. The OAT users were 78% female and 67% African American, with a mean age±standard deviation of 79.7±6.2. They were a frail group, with an average of 5.2±2.3 medical conditions, 4.5±2.3 medications, and 52% with at least one impairment in activities of daily living. Nonusers had more documented medical conditions and medications and a lower median household income. The most popular OAT products were multivitamins (65%), vitamin E (42%), and calcium (31%). Ninety-seven percent of users reported concurrent OAT and prescription medication use. The patients took OATs to supplement their diet (23%) and stay well (15%), as well as for various medical conditions. Influencing factors for OAT use were media advertisements (37%), physicians' advice (36%), and immediate family members (19%). Sixty percent of elders discussed their OAT use with their physicians

Conclusion: Community-dwelling, primarily African-American, elders are using OATs despite physical frailty and limited financial resources. OAT users are healthier and wealthier than nonusers. More subjects used concurrent OAT and prescription medications and discussed their use with their physicians than would be expected from the literature. A large national survey of OAT use by minority elders could explore these findings.

Ancillary