A survey of the perception of homoeopathy amongst parents of children aged 3 to 7 years old at pre primary schools in the Pinetown district
Von Bardeleben, Caron Lee
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Introduction More and more people are becoming concerned about the effects of drugs, particularly in relation to children. There is an alternative in homoeopathy (Speight, 1983). Families need more options. Homoeopathy is a wonderful option because homoeopathic remedies are safe, cause no side effects or allergic reactions, and are inexpensive. They are easy to use because they taste good and above all, they are curative, not suppressive (Ullman, 1992). It was therefore necessary to determine the perception or perceptions towards homoeopathy as a treatment method and in terms of a primary health care option. The study population selected for this research is required to attend pre primary school in the Pinetown district. This district was chosen for the diversity in race, religion, and socio-economic factors, as well as the mixture of both rural and urban areas in this district. Purpose/Aim The purpose of this survey was to assess the perception, extent of knowledge and general understanding of as well as misconceptions about homoeopathy, including attitudes towards homoeopathy as a primary health care option in order to determine possible needs for homoeopathic services. The aim of this study is to develop and improve the knowledge and general understanding of homoeopathy and the perception towards the profession of homoeopathy amongst the general public by means of an information pamphlet (Appendix E). Methodology The research instrument used was a quantitative questionnaire (Appendix A), aimed at parents of children aged 3 to 7 years old in pre primary schools in the Pinetown district , as laid out by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education – map version 2 October 2007 (Appendix H and I) EduAction (2007). It was introduced to the principals of randomly selected (stratified random sampling method was used) pre primary schools (Appendix J) of the Pinetown district, and arrangements were made with those principals for distribution and collection of the completed questionnaires. The questionnaire was adapted from Moys, (1998) Small, (2005) Paruk, (2006) and Khoosal, (2007). Anonymity was maintained as no names, addresses or other information was required, thereby preventing identification of the respondents. The data accumulated was evaluated and analyzed statistically using the SPSS® version 15.0 for Windows™ and Excel® XP™. According to statistician Tonya Esterhuizen, a p-value <0.05 was considered as statistically significant. Comparisons between demographics and areas were achieved using Pearson‟s chi-square tests. Descriptive analysis involved frequency tables showing counts and percentages of categorical variables. Bar or pie charts were used to show responses graphically. The profession can then use this information to decide what steps can be taken to rectify the misconceptions, improve general knowledge and attitudes towards homoeopathy; through education, media, community talks and the like. This information can also be used to plan for the necessary services required for the children (Khoosal, 2007). Results Of the 1400 questionnaires distributed, 508 questionnaires 36.3% from 13 different schools (Appendix J) were completed and considered evaluative. Not every question was answered on every questionnaire giving rise to some results that do not tally. Respondents answered questions on the extent of knowledge and general understanding (as well as misconceptions) regarding homoeopathy and it was found that more than half 56.1% had heard of homoeopathy. Of the sample, 22.7% had previously taken their child to a homoeopath for treatment, and the level of satisfaction with homeopathic treatment was 48.6%. According to the respondents 40.9% of children were in good health, while 33.9% was in excellent health and 24% in reasonable health. As anticipated a number of the respondents were unsure of the various roles of a homoeopath or did not know enough to comment. While 46% thought homoeopaths emphasize a healthy lifestyle, 45% thought that homoeopaths boost the immune system and 39% thought they prescribe plant extracts. Over half (51.2%) thought that homoeopathy had a valid scientific basis. And 32.4% agreed that homoeopathy takes longer to work than orthodox medicine although most (42.4%) were unsure about this question. On analyzing the attitudes towards homoeopathy as a primary health care option only 12.8% of respondents would contact a homoeopath if their child were ill. Most would contact a General Practitioner (GP) (61.3%). The majority (65.6%) thought homoeopathic treatment should be available in hospitals and clinics. While 40% saw homoeopathy as preventative medicine, 37.6% saw it as supportive and 35.7% as first choice treatment. On analyzing the conditions for which respondents would seek homoeopathic treatment, allergies ranked highest (43.5%) for which they would seek treatment, while hay fever was second (38.1%), followed by eczema (37.6%). The condition that was least agreed on was toothache (11.3%). A small percentage (3%), of respondents had a religious objection to seeking treatment from a homoeopath. Conclusion It can be concluded from the study that more than half of the public surveyed (56.1%) were aware of homoeopathy but levels of understanding and knowledge were lower than expected even where there had been partial experience with a practitioner. More detailed education on this modality of medicine is required in order to improve exposure to homoeopathy and to allow more informed decisions. It can also be concluded that a majority of respondents (65.6%) are in favour of homoeopathy having a place in primary health care. This study actually found that 65.6% of respondents felt that homoeopathy should be available in hospitals and clinic – this may not mean as a primary health service, but perhaps as an available alternative.