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Master of Arts (M.A.)

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Complementary, Alternative, Medicine, Interactions, Patients, Physicians


Medical sociologists and healthcare scholars have documented an upward trend in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States in recent decades. This study is focused on CAM use as it relates to the conventional U.S. healthcare system. The aim of this work is to differentiate CAM modalities functionally and to situate peoples’ CAM use in their structural location in the conventional healthcare system and their interactions with conventional medicine practitioners. Using the Household Component of the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey of 1998 two samples are considered. In a sample of combined CAM-users and non-users, comparisons are made between significant predictors of CAM use when CAM is treated as a uniform phenomenon to those when CAM is broken up into individual modalities for analysis. In a sample of respondents who used one of eleven CAM therapies in 1998, interactions with physicians and access to CAM modalities are compared between each of the modalities. The two indexes of variables, which are influence of MD interactions (measured by visits to an MD, discussing CAM use with MD and being referred to CAM by MD) and patients’ location within the structure of healthcare (measured by health insurance status, CAM insurance, and urban MSA code), are shown to have explanatory power on different CAM modalities’ use. These finding support the argument that CAM use should not be studied as a uniform phenomenon and that patients’ location in the larger healthcare system and interactions with medical doctors should be considered in research on complementary and alternative medicine’s use.


First Advisor

Douglas Anderton