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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The utilisation of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) among ethnic minorities in South Korea

Jung Hye Hwang1, Dong Woon Han234*, Eun Kyung Yoo4 and Woon-Yong Kim4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hanyang University College of Medicine, 222 Wangsimni-ro, Seongdong-gu 133-791, Seoul, Korea

2 Department of Global Health and Development, Graduate School, Hanyang University, 222 Wangsimni-ro, Seongdong-gu 133-791, Seoul, Korea

3 Department of Preventive Medicine, Hanyang University College of Medicine, 222 Wangsimni-ro, Seongdong-gu 133-791, Seoul, Korea

4 Institute of Health Services Management, Hanyang University, 222 Wangsimni-ro, Seongdong-gu 133-791, Seoul, Korea

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:103  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-103

Published: 19 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Race has been reported to affect the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but there is very little research on the use of CAM by ethnicity in Korea. This study explores the prevalence of CAM use among ethnic minorities in South Korea.

Methods

The design is a descriptive and cross-sectional study. A convenience sample of ethnic minorities was recruited from two public healthcare centres in Gyeonggi province. The survey instrument included 37 questions regarding CAM use, factors influencing use of CAM, self-health management, and the socio-demographic profile of study participants.

Results

Sixty-two percent of study participants reported the use of CAM. Multivitamins (53.3%), acupuncture (48.9%), and traditional Korean herbal medicine (38.9%) were popular CAM modalities in our sample. Other notable CAM modalities included herbal plants, therapeutic massage, and moxibustion therapy. The majority of CAM users (52.2%) received CAM services to treat diseases or as a secondary treatment while receiving conventional care. Having positive perceptions toward the effectiveness of CAM was a major determining factor in CAM use.

Conclusions

Physicians need to be aware of the fact that many ethnic minorities use CAM therapies. Many CAM users reported that they want doctors to know about their CAM use and have a basic understanding of traditional medicine in their home country. Overcoming language and cultural barriers will help reduce unwanted medical complications. High prevalence of CAM use among ethnic minorities in our study warrants further studies using larger sample population.