Aim: To determine the impact of health insurance and the government’s Benefit Service Scheme, a system that provides free drugs to treat mostly chronic illnesses to persons aged 16 to 65 years, on the use of herbal remedies by Christian churchgoers in Barbados.
Methods: The eleven parishes of Barbados were sampled over a six-week period using a survey instrument developed and tested over a four-week period prior to administration. Persons were asked to participate and after written informed consent, they were interviewed by the research team. The data were analysed by the use of IBM SPSS version 19. The data were all nominal, so descriptive statistics including counts, the frequencies, odds ratios and percentages were calculated.
Results: More than half of the participants (59.2%) were female, a little less than a third (29.9%) were male, and one tenth of the participants (10.9%) did not indicate their gender. The majority of the participants were between the ages of 41 and 70 years, with the age range of 51–60 years comprising 26.1% of the sample interviewed. Almost all of the participants were born in Barbados (92.5%). Approximately 33% of the respondents indicated that they used herbal remedies to treat various ailments including chronic conditions. The odds ratio of persons using herbal remedies and having health insurance to persons not using herbal remedies and having health insurance is 1.01 (95% CI 0.621, 1.632). There was an increase in the numbers of respondents using herbal remedies as age increased. This trend continued until the age group 71–80 years which showed a reduction in the use of herbal remedies, 32.6% of respondents compared with 38.3% of respondents in the 61–70-year category.
Conclusions: The data demonstrated that only a third of the study population is using herbal remedies for ailments. Health insurance was not an indicator neither did it influence the use of herbal remedies by respondents. The use of herbal remedies may not be associated with affluence. The reduction in the use of herbal remedies in the age group 71–80 years could be due to primarily a lower response rate from this age group, and secondarily due to the Benefit Service Scheme offering free medication to persons who have passed the age of 65 years.