Flu shot
June 20, 2019

Those who frequently use home remedies are less likely to get vaccinated against influenza or support the vaccine according to a new Preventive Medicine study from University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers Dr. Jessica Gleason, Amelia Jamison and Dr. Sandra Quinn along with Dr. Vicki Freimuth of the Center for Health and Risk Communication.

Despite the influenza vaccine’s effectiveness, vaccination rates remain low—especially for African Americans adults who report a 32.3 percent vaccination rate compared to the 40.2 percent rate for White adults. The researchers note potential reasons for this disparity include racial differences in risk perception, trust and attitudes toward the vaccine. But little research has explored the effect of cultural practices like the use of home remedies on these disparities despite studies that show “African Americans are more likely to use home remedies than other racial and ethnic groups.”

First to explore this association, the researchers contracted the GfK Group to conduct a nationally-representative survey of 819 African American and 838 White respondents. The survey questioned respondents about behaviors, attitudes and risk perception related to the influenza vaccine as well as the frequency of their home remedy use.

The researchers found that a higher number of African Americans used home remedies as part of family tradition, because of a lack of access to a doctor and instead of getting an influenza vaccine. Still, the researchers found that frequent home remedy users held more negative views toward the influenza vaccine than non-home remedy users regardless of race. The researchers suggest that among home remedy users, a combination of little trust in the vaccine process and an overestimation of the risks associated with the vaccine may contribute to vaccine refusal—with these associations increasing based on the degree of home remedy use.

The researchers note that instances of home remedy use are rising, “We are seeing a rise in home remedy use across socioeconomic and demographic groups, though the reason for this increase in use varies,” explains Dr. Gleason, a recent graduate from the doctoral program in maternal and child health. “Historically, in addition to cultural traditions passed down across generations, African Americans have used home remedies out of necessity—they either could not afford or were not allowed access to traditional medicine (doctors, hospitals, etc.). For White Americans, home remedy use has become more popular as the desire to live a ‘natural’ life has become more popular. As a result, we see more wealthy, highly-educated individuals choosing to use home remedies.”

Given these findings and the rising popularity of home remedies, the researchers conclude that it is critical that health care providers consider cultural practices when counseling patients for vaccination. They urge health care professionals to “use these findings to tailor advice toward individuals with a preference for home remedy use to allay fears and correct misconceptions surrounding influenza and its vaccine.”

Related Links

Home remedy use and influenza vaccination among African American and white adults: An exploratory study

Related People
Jessica Gleason, Amelia Jamison, Sandra C. Quinn