The name recognition and image of osteopathy in Flanders | The International Academy of Osteopathy IAO

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The name recognition and image of osteopathy in Flanders


Author: Ameel Apolline
Supervisor: Warrinnier Yves, Dobbelaere Eric

Background: Osteopathy is a manual therapy employed to detect and remedy functional disorders as to tissue mobility in the human body. An osteopath treats patients who suffer a wide range of disorders related to joint problems or tissue problems in general (e.g. muscular tissue, connective tissue, nerve tissue). According to Belgian federal law (Wet Colla, 1999) osteopathy is considered one of the four non-conventional therapies, next to chiropractic, homeopathy and acupuncture. In 2013 approximately 6 % of the population in Belgium resorted to some form of osteopathic treatment. On a yearly basis an amount between 85 and 92 million euros is collectively spent on osteopathic treatment methods. Osteopathy is yet to be recognised as an occupation in Belgium. Moreover training programs accredited by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NAVO) are non-existant and osteopathic treatment is only partially covered by a supplementary insurance plan.  

Objective: The aim of this study was to gain a perspective as to the name awareness and the public image of osteopathy in Flanders. A combined range of angles was taken into account: familiarity with the public, scientific content, legal frame and financial context.

Material and methods: Quantitative research by means of an online questionnaire consisting of 20 questions.

Results: 76 % of the public in Flanders was familiar with the term ‘osteopathy’ whereas a mere 36 % knew the exact meaning of the concept. Of those who are unfamiliar with osteopathy, 38 % would consider consulting an osteopath for treatment. Many regard osteopathy to be a specialization of physiotherapy. 68 % of the respondents who have resorted to osteopathic treatment have picked up osteopathy through word-of-mouth advertisement whereas 22 % were told to visit an osteopath by their general practitioner. Those who have resorted to osteopathy rate the treatment with an overall satisfaction score of 8 on a scale of 10. Besides 80 % of the respondents think it is important that the Colla-legislation be implemented and 82 % would favour a refund scheme through RIZIV (public healthcare insurance system in Belgium).

Conclusion: Osteopathic treatment is most popular with women, people between 34 and 54 years old and highly educated people. The people in Flanders receive an insufficient score as to their knowledge of the concept of osteopathy, and that applies to the combined fields of content, legislation and possible refund. Mouth to mouth recommendation proves to be the osteopath’s major means of advertisement.