ECU Health Policy
One of the fundamental objectives of the ECU is to widen access to the public of chiropractic health services, particularly in the field of spinal health.
There are current inequalities in the provision of chiropractic health services in Europe, both in terms of capacity and accessibility. In some countries, chiropractic is provided as part of the national health service, while in others chiropractors are subject to prosecution for practising medicine without a licence. This inequality is not in the public interest and denies a sizable number of European citizens from access to chiropractic.
Background to ECU Health Policy
Low back pain has been identified as the greatest specific cause of years lost through disability, with neck pain the fourth greatest, according to the most recent Global Burden of Disease Study. In terms of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) there were estimated to be 21.7 million lost globally in 2010 to occupational low back pain.
The cost of low back and neck pain to individuals, communities, nations and Europe is enormous. Not only is there a personal cost, there is a significant impact on productivity and economic prosperity. With an increasing ageing population, limitations in mobility through spinal disorders and the consequent social exclusion and related health issues lead to spiralling costs of care.
The ECU considers that the promotion and preservation of spinal healthcare is among the most important areas in creating cost-effective and sustainable health systems. Chiropractors have an important role to play in delivering integrated, efficient and effective services to promote active lifestyles and prevent disability through spinal disorders.
Delivery of specialised care
Chiropractors are well positioned to deliver specialised care for the assessment, treatment, management and prevention of spinal disorders. Their undergraduate training, quality controlled by accreditation provided by the European Council on Chiropractic Education (ECCE), ensures that chiropractors are trained to the highest standards. The ECU insists that all chiropractors who are members of its National Association (NA) Members are graduates of ECCE-accredited educational institutions.
Chiropractors are highly trained in manual methods of care, including spinal manipulation. They are also skilled in the prescription of active care approaches, self-help advice and general health promotion.
The ECU advocates an evidence-based approach to care, utilising the best available scientific evidence, clinical experience and patient preference. In delivering effective, individualised, specialised packages of care, chiropractors may contribute to sustainable and cost-effective healthcare.
Promoting healthy and active lifestyles
The ECU advocates health promotion as an important component of delivering effective chiropractic health services. As primary contact health professionals, chiropractors have a responsibility to be informed and to communicate information that will lead to a healthy population.
Health promotion may be general or specific. General health promotion will address areas such as obesity, tobacco use and alcohol consumption, while specific health promotion targets the effective preservation of spinal health, such as posture, walking, flexibility and spinal exercises.
Working with other stakeholders
The ECU considers that the effective delivery of chiropractic health services is enhanced by working collaboratively with other stakeholders. It recognises that co-ordinating its efforts with other providers of spinal health care will deliver better outcomes for patients and health systems generally.
The ECU encourages all chiropractors to develop links with local providers within their communities and for chiropractic associations to foster links with national bodies to participate in relevant health initiatives. Knowledge transfer and communication with policy makers will further enhance and develop chiropractic’s role as spinal healthcare experts in the health systems.
Supporting research to inform better approaches to spinal healthcare
The ECU supports and facilitates research through the ECCRE as well as supporting the establishment of research foundations in its member national associations.
The ECU ring fences 25% per capita fee for research and in addition dedicates grants to support specific research initiatives. It welcomes applications for research funding through a dedicated system administered by its Research Council.
Increasing numbers of chiropractors throughout Europe
There are currently around 4000 practising chiropractors in ECU Member National Associations in Europe. The ECU recognises that for the profession to develop, it must expand the numbers of chiropractors, particularly in areas of Europe where chiropractic is poorly represented.
The ECU has supported the establishment of chiropractic educational institutions throughout Europe. It will continue to do so and will promote all institutions in order to attract students. It will also support the creation of new centres for the training of chiropractors with both financial and practical support.
Facilitating graduate education and continuing professional development
The ECU strongly advocates the development of formal graduate education programmes in all ECU Member National Associations. It recognises that new graduates benefit from peer support during their early years in practice in order that they develop and flourish as skilled clinicians.
The ECU also considers that education is a lifelong process and that all chiropractors should seek to develop themselves professionally on an ongoing basis. Continuing professional development (CPD) should be an essential component of all chiropractors’ clinical and professional practices. To assist in this facilitation, the ECU organises a Convention each year, incorporating a scientific meeting at which original research is presented.