Friday, August 25, 2006

Older Minorities More Likely to Seek Home Remedies for Ills

(HealthDay News) -- When older minorities turn to home remedies to cure what ails them, it's more likely to be a reflection of their cultural beliefs rather than an inability to afford or access mainstream medicine, new research suggests.

The study found that many older people of all races tended to use home remedies for chronic ills, but black seniors were three times more likely than whites to seek such solutions for daily aches and pains, and Native American seniors were twice as likely to do so.

The revelation is reported in the January-February issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior.

"There's pretty good evidence out there suggesting that sometimes people's health behaviors are shaped by who they are and where they live. The fact that those things explained as little as they did was somewhat surprising," said study author Joseph G. Grzywacz, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"Health-care [providers] really need to be aware that this is taking place," Grzywacz added. "The real implication is to say, 'Hey, wake up. A lot of stuff is going on.'"

Older adults tend to rely on home remedies, and older adults who are members of ethnic minorities are even more likely to do so, the researchers said.

Home remedies can range from bran flakes to prevent and treat constipation to over-the-counter liniments and salves for muscle aches. One study found that up to half of older adults use food preparations involving honey and vinegar for various conditions.

The current study set out to determine why home remedy use is more common among ethnic minorities and whether it had to do with availability of conventional health care, economic hardship or health disparities.

The researchers analyzed a group of elderly adults with diabetes in Robeson and Harnett counties in North Carolina. Both counties are largely rural, and have a high proportion of ethnic minorities.

Participants were asked about two kinds of home remedies: food-based remedies such as tea, plant extracts and baking sodas, and "other" remedies such as over-the-counter creams and ointments and petroleum products.

The majority of older adults reported using at least one remedy in either category during the past year.

After controlling for age, education, gender and other factors, the researchers found that black elders were almost three times as likely as whites to use "other" home remedies for health purposes, while Native American elders were almost two times as likely.

Cultural explanations in general explained the differences more than other factors such as health-care accessibility and economic situation, the authors stated.

The fact that so many people use home remedies overall points up one thing, however.
"Being ill is a great leveler," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Baton Rouge. "Whether you're rich, poor, white, black, Native American, people are people."

More information
Visit the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities for more on this topic.

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