Researchers of Traditional, Complementary, Alternative, & Integrative Medicine and Health

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Consumer Vulnerability and the Transformative Potential of the Consumption of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Consumer vulnerability has been explored in relation to socio-economic, environmental, health and political contexts, but not in a Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) context, in spite of the fact that consumer vulnerability has been explored in the context of illness (Wang & Tian, 2014). The purpose of this paper is to address this gap by drawing on CAM, marketing and consumption literature to explore what consumer vulnerability is in CAM. Data were collected using a phenomenological, hermeneutic, interpretive approach and 40 face-toface semi-structured interviews were conducted with experts in CAM and female consumers of CAM. The narratives expose the complexity in exploring consumer vulnerability, and the analysis revealed four tenets of CAM consumer vulnerability including: (1) Desperation, powerlessness; (2) Alternative ideology; (3) Autonomy and locus of control; and (4) Anti-authority sentiment (dissatisfaction). Underlying all of these reasons was a general feeling of consumers' vulnerability and a sense of being 'let down' by orthodox medicine whilst experiencing this exposed state. These themes represent the characteristics of vulnerability in this context, as the narratives suggest that the respondents' reasons for consumption are signified by their feelings of vulnerability, explained in part by their dissatisfaction with their orthodox medicine experiences. These are discussed in the context of previous studies into CAM consumption, marketing and consumption literature. The contribution of this paper lies in the expansion of the consumer vulnerability framework in the context of CAM consumption, as the two constructs have not been explored in tandem heretofore. Read more here.