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

5 April, 2021

Citation, abstract, selected extract and comment from me below.

CITATION: Carè, J., Steel, A. & Wardle, J. Stakeholder attitudes to the regulation of traditional and complementary medicine professions: a systematic review. Hum Resour Health 19, 42 (2021).


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.


'The worldwide growth in consumer use and recognition of T&CM commenced in the latter part of the twentieth century, in part due to the Declaration of Alma-Ata and later the release of WHO traditional medicine strategies.'

COMMENT (NPW): I would like to highlight a HIFA paper (2014) that was not included in the analysis. It concluded: 'Many forum members indicated that they were supportive of trained Traditional Birth Attendants being involved in the provision of pregnancy care. Members noted that TBAs were already frequently used by women and that alternative options were lacking. However, a substantial minority regarded doing so as a threat to the quality and equity of healthcare. The extent of TBA involvement needs to be context-specific and should be based on evidence on effectiveness as well as evidence on need, acceptability and feasibility.'

Stakeholder views on the incorporation of traditional birth attendants into the formal health systems of low-and middle-income countries: a qualitative analysis of the HIFA2015 and CHILD2015 email discussion forums

Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where every person has access to reliable healthcare information and is protected from misinformation - Join HIFA:

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health movement (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: