The launch of the 2017-2022 Research Agenda represents a bold step for us here at the Australian Spinal Research Foundation. For the first time in our 40-year history, we will be commissioning research to fit our research agenda – exploring the vertebral subluxation in order to better serve our profession. Also for the first time in our history, we have set forth with a definition of the subluxation that will guide this research into the future. These changes did not come about in a boardroom. They came through an in-depth nine-month consultation process spanning more than 70 individuals, colleges and associations, taking place on both sides of the globe.
It was an extensive process borne out of our desire to emerge with something that was going to serve chiropractors and build further confidence, certainty and clarity. In order to do that, we consulted the profession in different contexts, from academia to clinical practice as well as research settings and political groups.
The process involved extensive one-on-one consultations and initial surveys, offering participants an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed agenda. This was followed up with in-person roundtable consultations in Melbourne and San Francisco where the research agenda and definition of the vertebral subluxation were discussed and debated before the finalisation of the 2017-2022 plan.
An important premise to these meetings was the Foundation’s non-negotiable chiropractic paradigm: that chiropractic is only chiropractic as long as its central focus is on allowing life to unfold free from the interference of the subluxation. Whilst we are aware that not everyone in the profession will agree with this premise, it is the purposeful stand that we have taken; one that was strongly echoed by those who took part in this consultation process.
Facilitator and previous board member, Dr Nimrod Weiner remarked on the “absolute level of excitement” experienced throughout the consultation. There was unanimous support for a few key aspects of the process and its outcomes. “Participants were excited about the changes in the Foundation’s process that has lead us to the point where we will be commissioning specific research – research that answers questions about the subluxation, and building confidence, certainty and clarity for chiropractors. These things were seen as very much needed,” he said.
The other need highlighted through-out the consultation was that of a leader to coordinate a common research agenda for chiropractic worldwide, or a body that could guide the collaboration and research efforts. Again, and again, there was consistently a strong, common feeling that this should be the Australian Spinal Research Foundation – a role we are honoured, determined, and well set-up to carry out in service to our great profession.
“This is more or less the first-time subluxation focussed chiropractors have sat down and collaborated with open dialogue, in such numbers, with such a specific focus,” said Dr Weiner. “People were so excited about having so many different representations around the table.”
Whilst the process involved hearty debate on a number of issues, there was a general excitement about “the possibility of continuing this process into the future, of being collaborative and having a unified position for our side of the profession, along with continuing the dialogue and engagement.”
Emerging from the consultation is a solid research agenda, and a definition of the vertebral subluxation that will guide research over the next five years. “We aren’t saying that we are defining this for the whole profession from here on in. What we are saying is that, for the sake of our researchers and the translation of this research into practice, there needs to be a common definition.”
This definition arose out of a process of:
- reviewing past definitions and discussing their suitability or lack thereof,
- discussing the elements that would make up a good definition for the vertebral subluxation
- and finally, bringing this all together in a way that would be useful in practice and research within the context of the Australian Spinal Research Foundation’s focus on delivering its research agenda, as well as its focus on building the certainty and clarity for chiropractors.
Also emerging from the consultation process is an important note on the role all chiropractors and chiropractic organisations can and should play in this process. “The idea is that Australian Spinal Research Foundation facilitates research and translates it, and these other organisations would then take the lead to disseminate this information to their own stakeholders. This allows us to come together as a profession, and to also make sure the research outcomes reach a far wider audience than just Foundation members. These were the main outcomes from that entire process. The energy and excitement was around the collaborative process.”
We may have been identified as the body needed to lead these research efforts, and the only organisation set up to drive this research agenda forward, but there is absolutely a role for so many others within this. It is go time. We need to pull together as a profession to raise the funds, do the research and get the word out! It’s not just about donating now. It’s about submitting those expressions of interest if you can help with the research, and it’s about getting the word out about the results through any professional, educational or clinical networks you have. There is a role for all chiropractors in this.
“Whilst our name is the “Australian Spinal Research Foundation” more than 80% of the research that we have funded has been “outside” of Australia. For 40 years, the Foundation has been ticking along in Australia but things have changed. With new international board members, this international collaborative and consultative process and our commitment to facilitate $1M towards research over the next 5 years, now is the time for the rest of the world to get involved,” remarked Foundation President Craig Foote.
“No longer do our country’s borders designate our boundary of responsibility. The research we have done, and will continue to do, will affect the chiropractor in practice who wants to understand more about the impact of the subluxation and the adjustment.”
“Basically, if you use the term subluxation, the term adjustment, see the benefits of people having regular chiropractic check-ups, or see children in your practice, then it is time you PAY for the privilege. Join Spinal Research (a dollar a day) and help us get the right research done. If you are a researcher we ask that you review our research agenda and lodge an Expression of Interest.”
We are incredibly grateful, excited and heartened by the feedback given to us by all of those involved with the collaborative process. It is our hope and wish that this collaboration with the worldwide profession continues into the future.