Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Today, NCCAM and the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new information on Americans' spending on CAM. Even in these difficult economic times, Americans are spending almost $34 billion per year on various CAM products and visits to CAM practitioners. By any measure, this is a substantial amount of money. This number, while only 1.5 percent of total health care expenditures, represents about 11.2 percent of all out-of-pocket spending on health care in the United States.
The data comes from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which also found that approximately 38 percent of American adults (83 million) are using some form of CAM for their health.
With so many Americans using CAM and spending a significant amount of their discretionary income on CAM therapies, I believe it's extremely important to know which of the widely used CAM products and practices are safe and effective. NCCAM's mission is to rigorously study CAM and communicate those findings to the public and those who care for their health, so they can make the most informed decisions. As these data show, CAM use is not insignificant—neither in the number of people using it, nor in the costs they are willing to pay for CAM products and services.
Finally, these data reinforce the need to continue to encourage patients, their doctors, pharmacists, nurses, as well as their CAM providers to discuss CAM openly within the context of overall health and well being.
For the full report and downloadable graphics visit nccam.nih.gov/news/camstats/costs.