An evidence-based overview of naturopathic practice in Australia
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine, 2019, 31 (1), pp. 9 - 14
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© NHAA 2019. Naturopaths are consulted by 6.2% of the Australian adult population, which is comparable to the rates of consultations with acupuncturists (7.9%) and osteopaths (5.4%)1. The Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance2 (‘the Natural Therapies Review’) found there is evidence to suggest whole-system naturopathic practice is effective in improving patient health for a range of chronic health conditions. However, the Natural Therapies Review noted the unregulated nature of the workforce made it difficult to apply in the Australian context, particularly as most of the identified research was conducted in North America. Yet, Australian naturopathic education is comparable in both length and breadth to North American courses. The Australian naturopathic profession has been calling for registration for many years3 and every government report in the last 20 years examining the need for registration of naturopathy has recommended this should occur4. Despite the continued exclusion of naturopaths from the prevailing Australian regulatory mode, the profession has grown in size, strength and professional status at a national and international level. For example, the regulatory model developed by the naturopathic profession in lieu of government registration5 is held up as a best-practice model for self-regulation that could be adopted by other unregistered health professions. Alongside this, Australian naturopathic education is recognised by the international peak body — the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF) — as aligning with the highest tier of professional qualification internationally6 and Australian naturopathic researchers attract more government research funding than other registered complementary medicine professions. Even so, since the Natural Therapies Review in 2013 the evidence for whole-system naturopathic practice has continued to increase: Whereas the Natural Therapies Review found only one systematic review for naturopathy containing 6 RCTs with 692 patients, a more recent review has identified 31 RCTs comprising 9,798 patients, which provide evidence for an increased number of chronic conditions improved by naturopathic care7.
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