National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Director's Page
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Public Mission

December 11, 2008

Yesterday, NCCAM and the National Center for Health Statistics released the results of a survey on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States. The report confirms that CAM practices are a frequently used component of Americans health care regimens. Whether people use CAM for chronic health conditions or to prevent disease and maintain wellness, these approaches are a part of health care in America today.

What did we learn?

  • About 38 percent of U.S. adults (18 years and over) and nearly 12 percent of U.S. children (17 and under) use some form of CAM.
  • Adults used CAM most often to treat pain, including back pain or problems, neck pain or problems, joint pain or stiffness/other joint condition, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. Adult use of CAM therapies for head or chest colds showed a marked decrease from 2002 to 2007 (9.5 percent in 2002 to 2.0 percent in 2007).
  • The most popular types of CAM used are natural products (such as dietary supplements and probiotics), meditation, chiropractic, massage, and yoga.
  • Among children, CAM therapies were used most often for back or neck pain, head or chest colds, anxiety or stress, other musculoskeletal problems, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

As we approach NCCAM’s 10-year anniversary and begin a new strategic planning process, we will use these data to guide our investment in CAM research. The data clearly show that chronic pain and natural products are areas of high public use; they are also areas where the scientific evidence is mounting. Through building an evidence base for these CAM practices, we hope to guide appropriate integration of these practices into improved health care for all Americans.

We continue to encourage patients and their doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other providers to discuss CAM within the context of overall health and well being.

  • NIH Audio File
    Dr. Briggs speaks about the results of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey.

* Note: PDF files require a viewer such as the free Adobe Reader.