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When East Meets West: Why Consumers Turn to Alternative Medicine

ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2009) — Alternative health remedies are
increasingly important in the health care marketplace. A new study in
the Journal of Consumer Research explores how consumers choose among
the many available remedies.

"Examples of the wide array of health remedy options available to
consumers include drugs, supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy,
Ayurveda, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (to name a few). Such
medical pluralism is common in both developed and developing countries
and raises the questions: How do consumers choose among health
remedies, and what are the consequences for a healthy lifestyle?"
write authors Wenbo Wang (New York University), Hean Tat Keh (Beijing
University), and Lisa E. Bolton (Pennsylvania State University).

The authors use "lay theories of medicine" to explain how consumers
choose between Western medicine and its Eastern counterparts,
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine.

"Western Medicine is primarily concerned with the material aspect of
the body and views all medical phenomena as cause-effect sequences,
relying on rigorous scientific studies and research that seeks
empirical proof to all phenomena," write the authors. "On the other
hand, TCM and Ayurvedic Medicine favor a holistic approach, view the
mind and body as a whole system, and rely upon inductive tools and
methods for treatment."

Based on a series of experiments and surveys in the United States,
China, and India, the authors found that consumers prefer TCM (over
Western medicine) when uncertain about the cause of an illness (i.e.,
diagnosis uncertainty) -- because a holistic medicine tolerates
uncertainty better than Western Medicine. Similarly, consumers prefer
TCM (over Western medicine) because of lay beliefs that TCM offers an
underlying cure (versus symptom alleviation by Western Medicine).

"These findings add to the growing debate over the regulation of
health marketing and the delivery of health care, the role of direct-
to-consumer advertising, and marketing efforts to promote a healthy
lifestyle," the authors conclude.

Story Source:

Adapted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press
Journals, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


Journal Reference:

1.Wenbo Wang, Hean Tat Keh, and Lisa E. Bolton. Lay Theories of
Medicine and a Healthy Lifestyle. Journal of Consumer Research, June
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University of Chicago Press Journals (2009, November 20). When East
meets West: Why consumers turn to alternative medicine. ScienceDaily.
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