Stakeholder attitudes to the regulation of traditional and complementary medicine professions: a systematic review

Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Human Resources for Health, 2021, 19, (1)
Issue Date:
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Abstract Background There has been a considerable increase in the number of traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) practitioners over the past 20 years and in some jurisdictions are estimated to outnumber general practitioners. Despite this globally significant role, it is apparent that worldwide not all T&CM professions operate under adequate accountability and regulatory oversight for maintaining public protection. To date there has been no published systematic examination of stakeholder opinions regarding regulated and unregulated T&CM occupations. In response, this review aims to investigate, describe, and analyse attitudes held by a range of stakeholder groups towards the regulation of T&CM professions. Methods A database search of AMED, CINAHL, Embase, Ovid MEDLINE, ProQuest, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar was conducted for original research published between 2000 and 2020 on stakeholder opinions regarding the regulation of T&CM professions. Results Sixty studies across 15 countries reported on the views of six health care stakeholder groups: consumers, T&CM practitioners, conventional medicine practitioners, professional associations, education providers, and policy-makers. Across all stakeholder groups there was between 15% and 95% (median 61%) support for, and 1% to 57% (median 14%) opposition to the regulation of various T&CM professions. The main reasons for supporting regulation included providing greater public protection, raising training and practice standards, establishing title protection, and gaining acceptance from conventional medicine providers. Concerns regarding regulation included potential restrictions to practice, misappropriation of practice, and medical oversight of T&CM practitioners. Few studies canvassed the views of professional associations (n = 6), education providers (n = 2), and policy-makers (n = 2). Conclusions There appears to be broad support for the regulation of T&CM professions, although there was wide variation in attitudes as to how this should be applied. Further research, with a particular focus on policy-makers, education providers, and professional associations, is critical to inform appropriate health policy and practice recommendations relating to T&CM professional regulation across jurisdictions. Systematic review registration: the a priori protocol for this systematic review was registered in PROSPERO and is available at:
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