Prevalence of Holistic Pediatric Care

The July 2007 issue of Pediatrics contained two articles documenting the holistic, or what is called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), treatment of children. One study was a survey of naturopathic physicians in Washington state. Remarkably, only 15 percent of responding naturopaths saw more than 5 children per week (Weber, 2007). The most common chief complaint was respiratory problems (colds, coughs, ear infections, allergy), then eczema, ADHD, and autism. The authors remark that no antibiotics were used to treat any of the respiratory symptoms seen in the study period, despite the fact that naturopathic physicians in Washington have the ability to prescribe antibiotics. They compare this to a study of pediatricians in Seattle which showed that 46 percent of visits by patients less than 3 years of age presenting with colds and coughs resulted in a prescription for antibiotics (Taylor, 2005). The authors remark that “It is possible that, by adopting some of the techniques used by the pedsNDs participating in our study, conventional practitioners might reduce the injudicious use of antibiotics in children with cold and cough symptoms.” Not an unexpected comment given that three naturopathic physicians authored the study, but it is unusual for the AAP to publish it. The fact that so few naturopaths see a significant number of children may point to a lack of adequate training in pediatrics to develop the confidence to treat children. This may indicate that postgraduate training in holistic pediatrics could be targeted to the naturopathic medical community so that more children can benefit from holistic care.

The second study looked at CAM usage by a population of parents attending a pediatric outpatient clinic at a university-affiliated general hospital in Quebec, Canada over a four week period (Jean, 2007). CAM therapies included chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, massage, acupuncture, Reiki/energy care, hypnosis, osteopathic manipulation, folk remedies, and any hands-on techniques to promote health. A questionnaire was completed for each child. A total of 114 children were included in the study, and 54 percent of these children had received CAM care, a higher number than reported in previous studies. The most popular forms of treatment were homeopathy, chiropractic, and naturopathy, all of which we would define as holistic systems of pediatric care. It is interesting that 39 percent of these families had sought homeopathic care for their child, a higher figure than in most other studies. The next most frequently used modality was chiropractic (24 percent), then naturopathy (23 percent). This should be encouraging and gratifying to homeopaths. The fact that most of these children presented to this clinic for chronic problems may explain the high level of holistic care and the high level of homeopathic care in this population.

Jean D, Cyr C. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in a general pediatric clinic. Pediatrics. July 2007; 120 (1):e138-e141.

Taylor JA, et al. Effectiveness of a parental educational intervention in reducing antibiotic use in children: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 2005; 24:489-493.

Weber W, et al. Frequency and characterists of pediatric and adolescent visits in naturopathic medical practice. Pediatrics. July 2007; 120 (1):e142-e146.

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Written by Randall Neustaedter OMD

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