Traditional medicine and children in general practice - new survey
Researchers at Thames Valley University are exploring how patients use CAM - and how their mainstream healthcarers react. If you're a healthcare professional, or a parent of children under 21, help TVU test their model by taking part in the surveys (links below)
You can also download the poster, which urges patients to be more candid with their doctors.
In multicultural areas of the UK, what people perceive as 'mainstream' medicine may differ widely. Many parents may reach for herbs or home remedies rather than savlon and bonjela for childhood upsets. Often traditional approaches will have been used in the family for generations. There's also a sliding scale across the whole population between those who go to their GP as a 'first thought' or a 'last resort'.
The Centre for Complementary Healthcare and Integrated Medicine at Thames Valley University has created a new website. It's the result of Professor Nicola Robinson's King's Fund project exploring how traditional and complementary healthcare approaches are used for children.
The idea is to track the remedies used and how common they are. They also explore the perception of these strategies among both parents and healthcare providers. Their work shines a light on a thinly-researched field.
The project has identified over 150 remedies that people had used on their child, from 'food remedies' to spiritual interventions. The eclectic mix of 'most popular remedies' included honey and lemon in hot water, fennel tea, massage, yoga, homeopathy, 'lots of fruit', 'lentils and rice', reading the Koran, praying and cranial osteopathy.
The study is tracking how people make decisions about what to use. They found that parents trust other mothers, family advice passed through the generations, parent groups and those with the same ethnic background. These factors had a much greater weight than things found on the internet or personal research.
Focus groups with parents in multiethnic communities in north west London observed over 90% of parents have used home remedies for their children. In their previous study in hospital outpatients which focussed on the narrow definition of CAM use 37% of patients reported use for their children.
Reactions from healthcare practitioners
Asked to estimate how many patients used complementary approaches, healthcare practitioners ranged from those who believed that 'everybody tries home remedies' to those who thought it was a 'rare situation'. Ava Lorenc, researcher on the project, says 'many expressed surprise at the extent of traditional and complementary use.'
Health Visitors are far more likely to recommend traditional remedies, and parents are more likely to talk to them about what they are using.
Doctors and nurses, on the other hand, were far less likely to intervene in any way. Though some took the view that 'if you know what you are doing and you know that it is perfectly safe, then continue', others chose to stay away from questions about traditional use altogether.
One nurse commented 'we don't explore TCA enough, because we are, very clinically and medically orthodox in our thinking, so we don't.' Another said 'it's not difficult to ask, it's just not something we were used to...I trained as a nurse God knows how long ago and it was never a question.'
A poster produced in partnership with PedCAM at the University of Alberta hopes to shift this 'don't ask, don't tell' culture. You can learn more and download a copy at the bottom of this page.
Nicky Robinson hopes that the website will lead to a more informed view on both sides of the fence. Research showed that doctors were likely to turn to Google to find out what a particular TCA strategy was all about - part of the site leads to useful links for professionals.
She also hopes it will identify collaborative opportunities with other researchers.
You can take part in the surveys by Clicking Here
You can find your local complementary practitioner in The Directory
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