By Jean Enersen/KING 5 News NWCN, Seattle, Washington

A survey by local researchers show 15 percent of naturopaths in Washington state provide regular care for children.

SEATTLE – For some kids in the Seattle area, going to the doctor means visiting a naturopath. But is the alternative as good as conventional medicine for a child’s health? After years of taking her children to pediatricians, Amy Ansel made the switch. Naturopathic Doctor, Tamara Cullen has been her baby’s sole health care provider since he was born. That’s because, like many other parents, Ansel has changed her view of what’s healthy for her children. “I definitely want to go to the best of the best,” she said. “Someone out there who’s not gonna just administer antibiotics and ADD medication, and vaccines.”

Now a survey by local researchers in the Journal of Pediatrics show 15 percent of naturopaths in Washington state provide regular care for children. Wendy Weber, a research associate professor at Bastyr University, was lead author. “We believe that a number of those children actually receive all of their care from naturopathic doctors,” she said. Naturopaths are licensed in Washington state to give immunizations, and write some prescriptions. But parents can expect an hour long visit to include treatment with herbs, homeopathy, and guidance in nutrition.

Cullen says naturopathic education doesn’t cover pediatrics as a specialty. So, she has gone through continuing education and shadowed pediatricians. They have become her informal network.

“I think the bottom line is that I feel comfortable being the primary care person, but I also know my limits,” Cullen said. Dr. Christine Harrison says knowing when to refer a child is crucial for alternative care providers. She spoke at a bioethics conference sponsored by Seattle Children’s Hospital. “They are possibly limited in being able to recognize certain healthcare conditions or to be able to know which treatments have been researched and developed,” she said. Harrison calls for certification, and standards of education and practice for alternative providers.

Amy Ansel says she is reassured knowing her naturopath teachers child health at Bastyr. “I trust her, because she’s knowledgeable on the pharmaceutical and the natural,” she said. Open communication is key for healthy kids. So families need to let providers know what other care their child is receiving.

Washington is one of 15 states that licenses naturopathic doctors. Visits are often covered by insurance.