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Bodywork publishing – supporting the bridge

Reading Hagins and Khalsa’s Research perspective in the latest issue of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy reminded me of discussion at the Forum on Teaching Research run by OsEAN earlier this year.

Two professional groups – yoga therapists and osteopaths – with very different traditions, but a common aim: to establish a research base for their work with clients/patients, so that they can practice with similar authority and professionalism to other health disciplines.

The OsEAN meeting struggled with the question of whether effective research was intrinsically impossible to conduct given the nature of osteopathic interventions. And in any case, as many speakers attested, it was difficult to inculcate a research attitude into students when most were fixed on their goal of graduating and moving quickly into private practice.

Osteopathic interventions share with those offered by yoga therapists (and other bodyworkers) the characteristic that the approach to each client is unique, and not easily susceptible to the standardization that permits development of a formal research protocol.

But as Hagins and Khalsa point out in their article, this is an issue not confined to health care.  Individually designed interventions are a feature of other areas of activity, and ‘advanced strategies for measuring and statistically analyzing individually tailored therapies have been in practice for decades in the social sciences’.

If rigorous research is difficult, although not impossible, why do it? The carrot is the evolution from craft- or tradition-based therapy to a profession that can argue its corner for contributing cost-effectively to social good.

But there is also a stick.  At least in the UK, there’s increasing pressure on practitioners to demonstrate a research base for what they do, failing which they lose the right to claim efficacy for their treatments.

However, the point was made at the OsEAN conference (link to document to be added to media uploads) that other disciplines – such as acupuncture – have been quite successful at building a research base for their practice. It can be done!

What part can a publisher play in this endeavour?

Hagins and Khalsa talk about building a bridge between science and yoga. For ‘yoga’ read any one of several disciplines in health care.  Doing the science is only part of the story; the results and their implications must be communicated and built into the framework of practice.

To achieve that we need rigorously managed research publications; and, just as importantly, educational content, on paper and online – ‘textbooks’ if you will – that helps students and practitioners understand the research, and apply it in their work with patients.  These are tasks in which publishers – in partnership with the research and teaching communities – can play a major role.

By Andrew Stevenson, Director, Handspring Publishing Limited