154736 Alternative and complementary health practices for children with special health care needs and disabilities: Patterns of use and communication with physicians

Monday, November 5, 2007: 4:50 PM

Paula M. Minihan, PhD, MPH , Dept. of Public Health & Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Barbara Popper, M Ed , Family Voices, Boston, MA
Betsy Anderson , Family Voices, Boston, MA
Sara Rakaczky, MS/MPH , Dept. of Public Health & Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Aviva Must, PhD , Dept. of Public Health & Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Policy initiatives to improve the health status of children with special health care needs (SHCN) and disabilities focus on the provision of coordinated, family-centered and conventional health services. Childrens' use of alternative and complementary health practices (ACHP) may impact overall care coordination efforts, particularly when physicians are unaware. An on-line survey (December 2006-January 2007) recruited parents who self-identified as having children with SHCN and disabilities, ages 6-18y, to inform development of supports to assist families' health promotion efforts. Via list-servs for parent support organizations cross- and disability-specific - nationwide, 860 parents, predominantly mothers, were recruited. Children were mean(SD) age 11.0(4.1)y, largely white (82.4%), and resided in 49 states and DC; 95.8% had insurance coverage.

43.7% of parents overall reported using at least one ACHP with their child within the past 12 months. Usage of at least one ACHP was 50.8% among the 323 parents whose children had autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Among all parents, herbal and dietary supplements were most used (23.6%) and 38% of users discussed it with their child's doctor. Percentages of other ACHPs used and percentage of users who discussed it with their child's doctor were 19.8% (34.7% of users) for specific vitamin supplements, 11.9% (40.8% of users) for therapeutic diets (like gluten-& casein-free diets for autism), and 10.3% (22.5% of users) for massage. Frequencies were higher, but similar in pattern of use and communication among children with ASD.

Physicians who don't ask parents about ACHP may miss information important to the child's overall quality of care.

Learning Objectives:
Describe the relative frequency with which parents of children with autism spectrum disorders used at least one alternative and complementary health practice (ACHP) compared with parents of children with special health care needs(SHCN)and disabilities overall. List the three ACHPs used by the greatest numbers of parents of children with SHCN and disabilities. List the ACHPs parents of children with SHCN and disabilities were most and least likely to discuss with their child's physician. Articulate one reason why physicians managing the care of children with SHCN and disabilities should ask parents about the use of alternative and complementary health practices.

Keywords: Alternative Medicine/Therapies, Children With Special Needs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.