An assessment of health literacy about complementary and alternative medicine in adult residents of Flathead County, Montana
O'Neill, Jennifer Lynn
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The purpose of this study was to explore health literacy about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in adult residents of Flathead County, Montana. The combination of documented low health literacy levels in U.S. and the proliferating use of CAM throughout the country create the potential for poor healthcare outcomes. Previous research indicates that due to lack of access to healthcare, rural residents often utilize CAM. Quantitative research methods and Margaret Newman's Health as an Expanding Consciousness provided the underlying framework for this study. A systematic sampling of 92 residents of Flathead County participated in the study. The data were collected by use of a mail survey which included a ten item CAM health literacy quiz and was analyzed using the SPSS 15 version statistical software program. The results indicated that almost half of the participants used CAM providers and more than half used self directed CAM. Musculoskeletal pain was the most frequently reported health problem for utilizing CAM.Health care providers, written materials, and the internet were reported most frequently as the resources used to obtain information about health problems and CAM. Greater than half of the participants were rated as Average for their CAM health literacy score and no significant relationships were found between selected sociodemographic factors and CAM health literacy levels. The implications of the study for nursing research include a) a need for continued research regarding CAM health literacy, b) establishing a valid and reliable tool to measure health literacy levels about CAM, and c) continued research to identify and trend what resources patients are using to obtain their information about health problems and CAM. The implications of the study for nursing practice include a) the healthcare provider evaluating their own CAM health literacy level and being knowledgeable about where to obtain evidence based practice information about CAM, b) a self assessment about the healthcare provider's feelings about CAM and how they present information or educate their patient's about CAM, and c) providing patients with appropriate education materials about CAM and directing patients to reputable resources about CAM.