The use of medicinal plants or other alternative practices can be the only therapeutic resources for many communities and ethnic groups, especially in developing countries. In Brazil, the Ministry of Health incorporated Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as a public health policy since 2006. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of CAM use in Brazil.
This was a cross-sectional study performed as an epidemiological survey, with data from the National Health Survey, 2013 that evaluated a sample of adult Brazilians (18+ years old). The outcome was the use of CAM therapies, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, medicinal plants and herbal medicines in the last 12 months. We employed a logistic regression model (CI 95%) to evaluate the chances of CAM use.
The prevalence of CAM use in Brazil was 4.5%. The subjects with higher chances to use CAM were: women (AOR = 1.42), aged > 40 years (AOR = 1.64), with higher educational levels (AOR = 2.35), and residents at North (AOR = 2.02) and South (AOR = 1.67) regions of Brazil, all with p-value < 0.001. According to the socioeconomic status, subjects from upper classes had higher chances to use acupuncture and homeopathy when compared to the other classes, and individuals from lower classes had higher chances to use medicinal plants and herbal medicines. Almost half of all individuals reporting CAM use did so outside the health care system. The Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS) was the least used funding for CAM when compared to other types of funding.
We recommend that the Ministry of Health invests in capacity building for health professionals who work with CAM, providing structure for those practices in health services, increasing the access of CAM therapies for SUS users, and improving the registering of information about those therapies, encouraging the use of CAM by the Brazilian population.