Characteristics of college students enrolled in an alternative health/complementary and alternative medicine course: a cross-sectional comparison.Explore (NY). 2009 Jan-Feb; 5(1):45-50.E
The rising prevalence of chronic disease in the United States signifies a need for innovative health education strategies. One approach would be to integrate holistically oriented alternative health content into university health education curricula. This would capitalize on growing consumer interest in alternative health practices and on the observed relationship between the use of alternative health practices and conventional preventive health behaviors.
The aim of this study was to explore the potential value of alternative health curricula. The study was conducted to obtain information on demographics, attitudes, and behaviors of students enrolled in a holistic health education course.
A cross-sectional survey design was employed.
Data was collected at a public university that offers a comprehensive undergraduate holistic health curriculum.
Participants were undergraduate students fulfilling general education requirements.
A convenience sample of three self-selected groups was surveyed: a holistic health education course, a conventional health education course, and a human sexuality course.
Outcomes included use of alternative health/complementary and alternative medicine practices, perceived effects of courses on health behaviors, intentions for future employment in a health field, and identification with holistic postmodern cultural values.
Holistic health students were significantly more likely to employ alternative health practices and to report identification with holistic cultural values compared with the other two groups. Both holistic and conventional health education students were significantly more likely to report perceived positive effects of courses on health behaviors and intended future employment in a health profession. Implications for health promotion and workforce development are considered.
Findings suggest potential benefits of including holistic health content in university health education curricula. Replication with a larger, representative student sample would be a logical next step.