Prevalence and patterns of use of alternative therapies amongst outpatient clinic attendants in Mathari Hospital
Alternative medicine includes systems, modalities and practices which are used to treat or prevent diseases which are outside the modes and methods of treatment practiced by the dominant health care system of a society at a particular period. The boundaries between these modes and conventional medicine are not always clear and there is considerable overlap between various modes and methods. Over ~ past few years there has been a worldwide trend towards increased use of alternative therapies. Design: a descriptive cross sectional study. Objective: to determine the patterns and prevalence of use of alternative therapies amongst out patients in Mathari hospital, the reasons for use of the therapy and the relationship between the use of alternative therapy and social demographic features of the population .. Setting: Mathari hospital, Nairobi, Kenya Method: One hundred and sixty four outpatient clinic attendants were selected by stratified random sampling. Informed consent was sought for participation in the study. A social demographic questionnaire and a health seeking behaviour questionnaire were then administered. Data analysis. The data was stored in computer media. Data analysis was done with SPSSVersion 12. Results: Out of the one hundred and sixty four patients interviewed for the study 104(63.4%) had used alternative therapy. Of the therapies used faith healing was the most common having been used by 88 subjects (53.8%) followed by herbal products which had been used by 61 subjects (37.7%) and traditional ritualistic methods had been used by 19 (11.6%) of the subjects. The commonest provider of alternative therapy was the pastor who was consulted by 63(37.8%) of the respondents .The faith healer and the herbalist were consulted by 31(19.0%) and 39(23.8%) respectively whereas the traditional healer was consulted by 19(11.9% ).Subjects who reported side effects to conventional medicine tended to use CAM more p=.02 but there was no relationship between CAM use and any other social demographic or clinical characteristics. Conclusions and recommendations: The prevalence of CAM use among the outpatients in Mathari was found to be similar to that found in other studies done mostly in the west. This finding suggests that CAM use is a universal phenomenon cutting across social, economic and cultural differences within the population and between populations. It is thus recommended that considering the high level of CAM use, the CAM practitioners' role in patient management should be more recognised and efforts should be made to improve the cooperation between the MMP and CAM practitioner for the benefit of the patients.