Research: MILLAR, Health Statistics

Listed in Issue 27


MILLAR, Health Statistics Division, Statistics Canada, Ottawa. studied the use of alternative health care practitioners by Canadians aged 15 and over.



Data from 17,626 respondents from the 1994-95 National Population Health Survey were selected. Consultation with an alternative health care practitioner or chiropractor was considered to be an indicator of use of alternative health care.


In 1994-95, some 15% of Canadians aged 15 and above (3.3 million people) used some form of alternative health care in the year preceding the survey. The most prevalent users of alternative health care were women, people aged 45-64 and among higher income groups. Use of alternative health care was associated with the number of diagnosed chronic illnesses. In people free of chronic diseases, 9% visited alternative practitioners, compared with 26% who had three or more chronic conditions.


The projected demand for services from alternative practitioners will rise as the population ages and the proportion of people with multiple chronic illness increases. Inclusion of alternative practitioner services under existing health care plans could result in higher health care costs.


Millar WJ. Use of alternative health care practitioners by Canadians. Can J Public Health 88(3): 154-8. May-Jun 1997.


The whole idea of much of alternative and complementary therapies is that these therapies, by and large, are much less expensive than many high-tech treatments and may also help to actually treat chronic illnesses which are refractive to conventional medical approaches. For example, treatment of arthritis or back pain with dietary measures or bodywork procedures costs less than expensive cortisone or gold injections or surgery and also less likely to cause serious side effects, if at all. Perhaps these researchers ought to think again at their conclusions above!

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