Mapping the Natural Health Landscape: a research study into complementary healthcare practice in Aotearoa/New Zealand

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Mapping the Natural Health Landscape: a research study into complementary healthcare practice in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Abstract –  Phillip Cottingham, Principal Emeritus Wellpark College of Natural Therapies, ND, BHSc, Grad Dip HSc.(Herbal Medicine), PG Dip HSc, Dip Hom


Background to the study

In 2004 the Aotearoa/New Zealand Ministry of Health commissioned an advisory committee to investigate complementary health care in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Ministerial Advisory Committee into CAM recommended that there be a quantification of the contribution of the complementary sector towards the Aotearoa/New Zealand health strategy. However, this did not happen immediately.

In 2010 Wellpark College initiated a research project in the form of a survey of complementary practitioners in New Zealand. The survey was designed to respond to the recommendation of the Ministerial Advisory Committee’s identification of a gap in knowledge of the complementary health care sector in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The survey was completed, with 330 practitioners responding. The significant majority of the responses came from three complementary disciplines: naturopathy/herbal medicine; homeopathy and massage therapy.

As part of a post-graduate doctoral study, Phillip Cottingham utilised data from the respondents in the above three disciplines to write a thesis about complementary health care practice in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The following abstract is an abbreviated version of the thesis abstract

Complementary medicine in New Zealand: A health services study of the perspectives and practices of selected complementary practitioners by Phillip Neil Cottingham

Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy (Public Health) under the supervision of

Distinguished Professor Jon Adams and Professor David Sibbritt


Complementary medicine in Aotearoa/New Zealand has a long history, but little is known about the characteristics of complementary practices in New Zealand.


The study utilised an online survey. Data collection was conducted over nine months and analysed using descriptive and inferential analysis.


Response rate was 32% (n=279: 107 naturopaths/medical herbalists, 57 homeopaths and 115 massage therapists). 80% of naturopaths and medical herbalists; 90% of homeopaths and 95% of massage therapists valued research. A significant association was found between skills to interpret research and research impact on practice for homeopaths (p=0.038) and, for massage therapists, significant associations were found between research value and mean caseload (p=0.009), as well as level of academic qualification (p=0.004).

Regulation of complementary medicine practitioners was supported (82% of naturopaths/medical herbalists; 93% massage therapists and 87% homeopaths). Integration with conventional care was supported (83% naturopaths/medical herbalists; 68% homeopaths and 79% massage therapists).


This thesis presents empirical findings on complementary medicine practice in Aotearoa/New Zealand but highlights the need for further research in the areas of evidence-based practice, education and regulation of complementary medicine practitioners that may contribute to a more integrative healthcare provision in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The thesis will be available in printed form in the Wellpark College library shortly.

Copyright Ⓒ 2021 Wellpark College of Natural Therapies



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