Are Americans Taking Health Care Into Their Own Hands?
A new survey (3/01) from the Consumer Healthcare Products
Associations confirms that Suzanne Somers isn't the only one rejecting her doctors'
opinions: Americans are increasingly relying on themselves rather than on physicians
when feeling under the weather. Following a growing trend toward self-reliance,
Americans say they are increasingly comfortable managing their own health care
needs. Among the findings of this survey:
- 59 percent of Americans say they are more
likely to treat their own health condition now than they were a year ago.
- 73 percent would rather treat themselves
at home than see a doctor, and 62 percent say they would like to do more of
this in the future.
- 96 percent say they are generally confident
about the health care decisions they make for themselves.
"Self reliance is a dominant theme of American lifestyles
this millennium, especially in health care," said Michael Maves, MD, MBA, President
of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "While there is no substitute
for a physician, Americans are taking control of minor medical problems with
safe, reliable over-the-counter medications."
In fact, Americans say they are more likely to take
an over-the-counter medication to treat common ailments (77%) than to wait to
see if the problems go away on their own (69%). Nearly 80 percent of Americans
report using an over-the-counter medication in the past year to treat at least
one of the ailments they suffer from - almost twice the number that either consulted
a physician or took a prescription medication.
While relying heavily on over-the-counter medications,
consumers understand that these products must be used properly. An overwhelming
majority say they take the necessary precautions, such as reading directions
before using a product for the first time (95%), examining labels to help choose
medications (89%) and reviewing possible side effects and interactions (91%).
To ensure that consumers continue to use products
safely, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association recommends the following
four-point plan for using over-the-counter medications:
- Always read product labels.
- If you have questions, talk to a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
- Never misuse over-the-counter medications by taking them longer or in higher
doses than the label recommends. Symptoms that persist are a clear signal
it is time to see a doctor.
- Discontinue use and ask a doctor if you have a reaction to a medication.
More than 600 products are now available over the
counter because the Food and Drug Administration has determined that consumers
can use them safely and effectively without requiring a doctor's prescription.
In recent years, products to treat baldness, yeast infections and migraine -
once available only with a doctor's prescription - have become available over
the counter. Attempts to make products like oral contraceptives available over
the counter, however, have been resisted.
The survey showed that Americans rely heavily on friends,
family and the Internet for basic health information. When it comes to minor
health issues, 27 percent consult family and friends as their top source of
information, followed by physicians (20%). Although a much newer resource,
7 percent rely on the Internet when it comes to minor health issues. For serious
health concerns nothing replaces a physician. Younger people are much more likely
than their elders to rely on friends and family for advice on how to deal with
every day health problems.
Americans also rely on nutritional supplements to
maintain good health. The survey showed that the majority of the public (57%)
says they are either actively using dietary supplements or gathering information
about them. More than eight in 10 Americans who take dietary supplements say
they are satisfied with the results. Mature Americans and women are more likely
to be currently familiar with alternative medicines, and African Americans and
Hispanic Americans show the highest level of interest in becoming more familiar
with alternative medicines in the future.
This survey was conducted on behalf of the Consumer Healthcare Products
Association, the 120-year-old trade association representing U.S. manufacturers
and distributors of nonprescription, over-the-counter medicines and dietary
supplement products. The findings are based on 1,505 interviews conducted via
telephone by Roper Starch Worldwide from January 8-24, 2001. The results of
the survey can be projected to the entire U.S. population with a margin of error
of +/-2.6 percent. Hispanic Americans and African Americans were over-sampled
in the research to insure that findings for these groups are projectable. For
more information on this survey, go to www.chpa-info.org.
Created: 4/26/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.