Joint pain

September 2010

Research

Complementary and alternative medicine

Representations in popular magazines

Volume 39, No.9, September 2010 Pages 671-674

Christine Phillips

Alexandra Dunne

Background

More than half the patients who use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Australia do not discuss it with their doctors. Many consumers use popular media, especially women’s magazines, to learn about CAM.

Aim

To explore representations of CAM in popular Australian women’s magazines.

Methods

Content analysis of three Australian magazines: Australian Women’s Weekly, Dolly and New Idea published from January to June 2008.

Results

Of 220 references to CAM (4–17 references per issue), most were to biologically based practices, particularly ‘functional foods’, which enhance health. Most representations of CAM were positive (81.3% positive, 16.4% neutral, 2.3% negative). Explanations of modes of action of CAM tended to be biological but relatively superficial.

Discussion

Australian magazines cast CAM as safe therapy which enhances patient engagement in healthcare, and works in ways analogous to orthodox medical treatments. General practitioners can use discussions with their patients about CAM to encourage health promoting practices.

Each year Australians spend over $4 billion on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and visit CAM practitioners almost as frequently as they do medical practitioners.1 However, less than half of consumers of CAM have discussed their use with medical practitioners,1 indicating that doctors are not significant sources of consumer information about CAM.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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