The Australian Government has commissioned a review of the clinical effectiveness of 16 natural therapies excluded from private health insurance rebates. The Department of Health has engaged National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to assist in its review by commissioning evidence evaluations that will assess published scientific research on the excluded therapies.

NHMRC has established a Natural Therapies Working Committee to oversee the evidence evaluations. For more information on the Natural Therapies Review 2019–20 refer to the Department of Health's website.

Background

From 1 April 2019, 16 natural therapies were excluded from private health insurance rebates. This decision was informed by the 2014–15 review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance (2014–15 Review). NHMRC assisted the Department of Health with the 2014–15 Review by commissioning evidence evaluations for the therapies and assessing submitted evidence. The 16 natural therapies under review are Alexander Technique, aromatherapy, Bowen Therapy, Buteyko, Feldenkrais, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, naturopathy, Pilates, reflexology, Rolfing, shiatsu, tai chi, Western herbal medicine and yoga. A description of the therapies can be found below, under the heading Therapies under review.

Contributing to the review

The Natural Therapies Review is supported by:

  • Natural Therapies Review Expert Advisory Panel (NTREAP)
    The Australian Government's Chief Medical Officer set up the Natural Therapies Review Expert Advisory Panel to help with the review. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, is the Chair of the advisory panel and is leading the review.

    For more information visit NTREAP.
     
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
    NHMRC is assisting the Department of Health in its review by commissioning the evidence evaluations. NHMRC has established a Natural Therapies Working Committee to advise on these evidence evaluations.
     
  • Natural Therapies Working Committee (the Committee)
    The NHMRC Natural Therapies Working Committee is advising on evidence evaluations on the clinical effectiveness of the 16 natural therapies.

    For more information visit Natural Therapies Working Committee.
     
  • Independent evidence reviewers
    NHMRC has commissioned independent evidence reviewers to prepare research protocols and conduct the evidence evaluations for each of the 16 therapies under review.
     
  • Independent methodological reviewers
    Independent methodological reviewers have been commissioned to evaluate and provide feedback on research protocols and evidence evaluation reports.

Reviews currently underway

All evidence evaluations are now underway. Finalised research protocols are available for aromatherapy, iridology, naturopathy (review A), Pilates, Rolfing, shiatsu, tai chi, Western herbal medicine and yoga.

Therapy Systematic review of primary studies* Overview^ (systematic review of systematic reviews) Research Protocol
*A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. (Cochrane: What are systematic reviews?)

^Overviews use explicit and systematic methods to search for and identify multiple systematic reviews to examine the effectiveness of specific interventions (for example, the clinical effectiveness of Pilates on specific populations/conditions). This method is often used when the research question is broad in scope and where there are resource and timing constraints. See the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.
Alexander Technique x   Not yet available
Aromatherapy x   Available
(PDF 550 KB)
Bowen Therapy x   Not yet available
Buteyko x   Not yet available
Feldenkrais x   Not yet available
Homeopathy x   Not yet available
Iridology x   Available
(PDF 330 KB)
Kinesiology     Not yet available
Naturopathy Review A – Whole system, multi-component or single component interventions x   Available
(PDF 0.9 MB)
Naturopathy Review B – Selected nutritional supplements prescribed in the context of naturopathic practice   x Not yet available

 

Pilates x   Available
(PDF 790 KB)
Reflexology x   Not yet available
Rolfing x   Available
(PDF 470 KB)
Shiatsu and acupressure x x Available
(PDF 1.2 MB)
Tai Chi x   Available
(PDF 810 KB)
Western herbal medicine   x Available
(PDF 1.2 MB)
Yoga x   Available
(PDF 880 KB)

To stay up to date on the progress of the review, please refer to the to the Natural Therapies Review 2019–20 on the Department of Health's website. The Department also holds regular teleconferences to provide updates for stakeholders. For more information on these teleconferences please contact the Natural Therapies Review secretariat at naturaltherapiesreview@health.gov.au

Therapies under review

The current Natural Therapies Review will evaluate the clinical effectiveness of the following therapies:

Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique aims to retrain habitual patterns of movement, improve postural support and coordination, relieve pain, reduce stress and improve performance by consciously altering automatic responses and tonic muscular activity.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils to treat, influence or modify the mind, body and spirit to promote health and wellbeing.

Bowen Therapy

Bowen Therapy is a remedial, hands-on technique based on the use of gentle pressure and release of the soft connective tissue (fascia) of the body. The technique involves a sequence of light, cross-fibre movements of varying pressure at specific sites on the body using thumbs and fingers in a specific manner.

Buteyko

Buteyko is a health education program involving breathing retraining techniques, posture, and lifestyle guidelines, with the aim of returning breathing to normal physiological levels.

Feldenkrais

The Feldenkrais Method® aims to improve human life through better movement, sensation, posture and breathing. The Feldenkrais Method is based on principles of physics, biomechanics, and an empirical understanding of learning and human development.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on the principle that "like cures like"; that is, a substance which causes symptoms when given to healthy individuals, can be used in small doses to treat patients with those same or similar symptoms. Homeopathic medicinal products have undergone the manufacturing process known as 'potentisation'; that is, serial dilution alternating with succussion (vigorous shaking with impact).

Iridology

Iridology is a diagnostic system based on the premise that every organ has a corresponding location within the iris of the eye that can serve as an indicator of the individual health or disease of an organ.

Kinesiology

Kinesiology is a system that aims to evaluate a person’s structural, chemical, mental and/or energetic systems using manual muscle testing techniques. Specialised kinesiology does not claim to treat patients directly, but rather is said to facilitate a person’s natural healing process by determining the root cause of any ‘imbalance’ and bringing this to a person’s conscious attention.

Naturopathy

Naturopathy is a holistic approach that encompasses a variety of treatment methods including, but not limited to: herbal medicine, dietary and nutritional advice, lifestyle advice, hydrotherapy, the use of compresses, energetic medicines and soft tissue manipulation.

Pilates

The Pilates Method is a unique system of exercise and resistance training, which uses springs and body weight to strengthen the body and promote physical and mental control. It aims to improve posture, core stability, co-ordination, breathing and stamina.

Reflexology

The basic principle of reflexology is that certain parts of the body reflect the whole. Reflex points can be found in the feet, hands, face and ears, and reflexology aims to stimulate the body's own natural healing process in response to pressure on these points.

Rolfing

Rolfing is a form of bodywork that aims to reorganize the connective tissues, called fascia, so that body is more at ease and its structure is balanced in gravity.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a therapeutic form of acupressure, muscle meridian stretching and corrective exercises. Shiatsu involves applying pressure to the body, and may also include the use of flowing stretches and gentle rotations of the limbs and joints, simple structural alignments and muscle release techniques.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi (also known as Taijiquan/ Tai Chi Chuan) has been practiced for general health and fitness purposes since the 16th Century. Tai Chi's slow, gentle and tranquil movements aim to enable harmony in mind and body, improved mobility, suppleness and mental alertness.

Western Herbal Medicine

Western herbal medicine involves using plants and plant material to create medicines to help prevent or treat various illnesses. These materials may use some or all parts of a plant, such as flowers, roots, fruits, leaves, and bark.

Yoga

Yoga aims to cultivate health and wellbeing (physical, emotional, mental and social) through the regular practice of a range of many different techniques, including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self-inquiry and meditation.

The descriptions of therapies were provided by the Department of Health's Natural Therapies Review Expert Advisory Panel.