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The practice and regulatory requirements of naturopathy and western herbal medicine in Australia

Authors Vivian Lin, Pauline McCabe, Alan Bensoussan, Stephen Myers, Marc Cohen, et al

Published Date February 2009 Volume 2009:2 Pages 21—33

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/RMHP.S4652

Published 26 February 2009

Vivian Lin1, Pauline McCabe1, Alan Bensoussan3,4, Stephen Myers5, Marc Cohen6, et al

1School of Public Health; 2Cochrane Consumers and Communication Review Group, Australian Institute for Primary Care, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia; 3National Institute for Complementary Medicine; 4University of Western Sydney, Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia; 5NatMed-Research, Department of Natural and Complementary Medicine, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales, Australia; 6Department of Complementary Medicine, RMIT University, Bundoora West, Victoria, Australia; La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia

Abstract: Australian health workforce regulation is premised on the need to protect public health and safety. Specific criteria are set out by governments to ascertain the degree of risk and the need for government intervention. A study was undertaken to understand the current state of usage and the practice of naturopathy and western herbal medicine, and to ascertain whether statutory regulation was warranted. We found increased use of these complementary therapies in the community, with risks arising from both the specific practices as well as consumers negotiating a parallel primary health care system. We also found highly variable standards of training, a myriad of professional associations, and a general failure of current systems of self-regulation to protect public health and safety. Statutory regulation was the preferred policy response for consumers, insurers, general practitioners, and most of the complementary therapists. While we found a case for statutory registration, we also argue that a minimalist regulatory response needs to be accompanied by other measures to educate the public, to improve the standards of practice, and to enhance our understanding of the interaction between complementary and mainstream health care.

Keywords: health workforce regulation, complementary health care, protection of public health and safety, health care policy

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