A new nationwide survey released today reveals that just 12 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 have spoken to their child's doctor about complementary and integrative approaches to medicine, yet nearly 90 percent say they want to know more. The survey, conducted by Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota (Children's), assessed parents' attitudes about various approaches to treating a child's illnesses. Integrative medicine combines the best conventional medical therapies like drugs, chemotherapy and surgery, with complementary therapies like massage, acupuncture and proper nutrition.
The survey showed parents are concerned about the overuse of prescription medications with their children; 85 percent feel it's important to minimize a child's dependence on drugs, especially for behavioral issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety. Complementary and alternative approaches can be a solution to this concern as more natural treatments are being found to be effective in the management of a variety of children's health concerns.
Parents also feel strongly about eliminating their child's pain and improving quality of life; almost 90 percent feel both these factors are as important as treating their child's condition. Complementary and alternative medicine focuses on non-drug, less invasive therapies like acupuncture, massage and relaxation to help kids more effectively control pain, maintain mental health, and improve quality of life.
"Many children with chronic or acute health conditions seek a complementary or integrative approach only after they have exhausted all other conventional treatment options," said Timothy Culbert, MD, Medical Director of Pediatric Integrative Medicine Clinical Programs at Children's. "Parents should be aware that integrative medicine can be helpful from the onset of disease and can save time, money and most importantly, improve a child's quality of life. This is true for all kinds of conditions including acute illnesses like cancer or chronic problems like migraines or behavioral issues."
Children's is among the country's leaders in the integrative medicine field with the largest, longest-running pediatric, clinical integrative medicine program in North America. The program offers a holistic approach to care, and helps children and their families manage the everyday struggles of illnesses in a more comprehensive way. Currently more than half of patients at Children's use some sort of outpatient complementary or alternative medicine to help manage their conditions.
Almost 90 percent of parents surveyed indicated they would like to find out more information about integrative medicine whether it be from their physician, going to a hospital that offers an integrative medicine program, or seeking out more information on their own. Other interesting findings include:
-- Sixty-eight percent of parents agreed integrative medicine was an effective treatment approach.
-- More than three-fourths of parents agree combining conventional and complementary/alternative approaches to medicine is innovative and that hospitals should offer medical experts on both conventional and complementary/alternative therapies.
-- Almost two-thirds of parents who have children with serious health issues had never considered an integrative approach because they are unfamiliar with the subject.
The survey of 1,003 parents included 203 parents with kids who have serious, chronic or acute health problems. This subset of parents had somewhat more knowledge of integrative medicine (42 percent), but even these parents are not hearing about the benefits an integrative approach can bring their child. Of the parents that have used integrative medicine as part of their child's treatment, 95 percent had a positive experience.
"Parents need to consult and work with their child's physician to determine what integrative medicine options are available that may be helpful," says Dr. Culbert. "There are so many different kinds of complementary therapies, it's important to learn about options to find an approach that will work best for each patient. I see first-hand every day the difference it can make in a child's life."
More information about the Children's Integrative Medicine Program can be found by visiting www.childrensintegrativemed.org.
About Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Serving as Minnesota's children's hospital since 1924, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is the seventh-largest pediatric health care organization in the United States, with 332 staffed beds at its two hospitals in St. Paul and Minneapolis. An independent, not-for-profit health care system, Children's of Minnesota provides care through more than 14,000 inpatient visits and more than 200,000 emergency room and other outpatient visits every year. Children's is the only Minnesota hospital system to provide comprehensive care exclusively to children. For more information, visit www.childrensmn.org.