The reason women are increasingly turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) will be the focus of world-first research lead by The University of Queensland (UQ) in collaboration with the University of Newcastle into the multi-billion dollar complementary and alternative medicine industry.
Researchers will survey a targeted group of mid-age Australian women to uncover what motivates them to use CAM.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Jon Adams from the UQ's School of Population Health, said early data shows an interesting disparity between CAM use across Australia.
"Previous pilot work found that mid-age women in regional areas are significantly more likely to use CAM than those in urban areas, but we don't know why.
"Our research will test a number of theories including limited access or dissatisfaction with conventional health care services, closer working ties between rural GPs and CAM providers, and word-of-mouth recommendations through informal community networks."
The findings will provide evidence to support policy and practice, and will help develop CAM initiatives and programs for women's health that acknowledge regional differences.
The research will add a major new component to data collected through the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, the longest running national survey about the health and wellbeing of 40,000 women.
Co-researcher Dr Anne Young from the University of Newcastle's Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing, in collaboration with Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), said knowledge of CAM use was important given the potential for interaction with conventional medical treatments.
"Researchers have identified CAM treatments as potentially well-suited to dealing with a range of health problems and associated symptoms prevalent amongst mid-age women such as arthritis, diabetes, asthma and menopause," she said.
"Given the safety and effectiveness of many CAM treatments has not yet been medically verified, it is important to know how widespread the use is, particularly among people with chronic diseases who are taking prescription medication as well."
The research partners have secured $450,000 from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to conduct the research over the next three years.
Associate Professor Jon Adams and Dr Anne Young are available for interviews.