Sharon Ufberg, DC examines why many families don’t tell their pediatricians about their use of alternative and complementary medicine.

by Sharon Ufberg, DC

Just recently, a report came out in a leading pediatric journal stating that over 60% of families are using some form of complimentary or alternative medicine with their children but not telling their pediatricians about it.

How is it possible that in 2009 this trend to hide information about healthcare practices from one’s traditional medical doctor still exists?

Are the repercussions of reporting the use of an integrative approach to a child’s wellness so severe that parents are afraid to tell the pediatrician or family doctor? I am dismayed when I continue to hear personal stories of uninformed doctors chastising patients for seeking complementary and alternative methods of healing.

How are we to change this trend of continuing silence?

We need to shift this paradigm of don’t ask, don’t tell when it comes to our patient’s health. We all could probably do a better job of communicating what we do and why to our patients and their primary doctors. The more we engage in dialogue with other practitioners and the better educated they become, the less threatening we are to one another.

I do encourage my patients to be open with their doctors about what total health and wellness practices they are utilizing. It is essential that a pediatrician or family doctor sees the whole, pretty picture. We all know that most of our patients dabble in a variety of integrative options that include vitamin and herbal supplements, aromatherapy, massage and the dozens of other choices that people sample every day on themselves and their family in an effort to stay well and feel good. I often ask my patients to tell me specifically about each and every one of the practices their families participate in regularly. It is my intention to assist my patients in being open and help make them aware how important all their lifestyle and healthcare choices are to their total wellness.

As a practitioner, I have often chanced upon the cause of a patient’s problem by continuing to ask questions long after the patient thinks they have told me the entire story. I can only imagine how difficult it is to piece together a correct diagnosis when information is deliberately being withheld for fear of retribution or  uncertainty of a doctor’s approval.

We as integrative practitioners utilize safe and effective methods to help keep children and their parents well. We must continue to openly acknowledge our desire for partnership and collaboration with our medical colleagues to close this gap of communication. We also have to keep after our patients to take responsibility for their own choices and be open about the way they piece together just the right mix of health and wellness offerings. If their family doctor or pediatrician doesn’t approve, well then maybe they should find an integrative doctor that understands a little something about healthcare in the 21st century.

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