Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Internship at the World Health Organization

By Jennifer Nash BSc (Hons) DC   

Features Education Profession

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the world’s leading health
authority. For a DC, an internship with the WHO is a unique,
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain more insight on how
chiropractic, and chiropractors, fit in with global health, while
giving back to the chiropractic profession.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the world’s leading health authority. For a DC, an internship with the WHO is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain more insight on how chiropractic, and chiropractors, fit in with global health, while giving back to the chiropractic profession.

I recently completed my internship at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in the Traditional Medicine Program (TRM). TRM encompasses both indigenous traditional medicine (TM) systems and practices, and those considered complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). These include chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine, unani, ayurveda, homeopathy, osteopathy, Tui Na, herbal medicine, acupuncture and many others.


The reliance on TM in developing countries, and the increased use of CAM in developed countries, is making TRM an education program of growing interest. In Africa, up to 80 per cent of the population uses TM to meet their health-care needs and 40 per cent of all health care in China is in the form of TM. In developed countries such as Australia, Canada, U.S., Belgium and France, 48 per cent, 70 per cent, 42 per cent, 38 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively, of the populations have used CAM at least once.1

While increasing numbers of people are turning to TM/CAM to meet their health-care needs, there are many TM/CAM systems, practices and practitioners that are still unregulated. WHO assists Member States by supporting the development of health policy and integrated health systems related to TM/CAM, and also in ensuring the safe, effective and appropriate use of TM/CAM.

During the internship, I contributed to a number of projects, including the revision of the second Global Survey on National Policy on Traditional/Complementary/Alternative Medicine and Regulation of Herbal Medicines, as well as drafting a paper that addressed health workforce inequalities as they relate to TM/CAM practitioners and the implications for funding, research and health policy. I also conducted a seminar, which was open to WHO interns and staff, on the topic of TM/CAM in Global Health, using chiropractic as an example of a safe and effective TM/CAM system.

Other smaller projects, in which I was involved included drafting proposals for new technical documents related to herbal medicines, intellectual property rights related to TM and the role of TM in primary care. I also participated in meetings such as the preliminary working group meeting for the revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). While not all tasks were directly related to chiropractic, this was another chance for a chiropractor to have a voice in global health.

Even though musculoskeletal disease has been cited as the major cause of years lived with disability on all continents and economies,2 the focus on non-communicable disease at WHO is relatively small. While chiropractic is recognized within TRM, and while the WHO Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Chiropractic have been translated into several languages, there is still much work to be done.

During my internship, I had the opportunity to spend time with other interns at WHO, most of whom were medical students or medical doctors. Consequently, I often found myself faced with many questions about chiropractic. I was shocked at how little this select group of international health professionals/students, which had been gathered to emphasize the importance of increased interprofessional education, knew about TM/CAM, and chiropractic in particular. Having the opportunity to connect with these people, to encourage them to think outside of the medical model and to consider the benefits of increased interprofessional collaboration, was the most rewarding experience of the internship.

Health policy is very resistant to change; change requires strong support, unity and perseverance. Chiropractors need to focus not only on educating others about chiropractic, but also on emphasizing the role of chiropractors as health-care professionals. As health-care practitioners, we contribute valuable human resources to health systems and can help to increase access to primary care, thereby reducing the burden of illness on society.

We need to focus on the similarities within chiropractic, not the differences, ensuring that we are always providing a clear and consistent message. It’s about maintaining a presence, in contributing to overall health policy – and not just that related to chiropractic – and it’s about sitting at the table, as a united profession, to be ready when there is an opportunity for chiropractors to have a voice.

We need to show the world that we are dedicated to the WHO’s “Health for All” strategy by supporting relevant initiatives such as the Tobacco Free Initiative (through the World Federation of Chiropractic’s Chiropractor’s Against Tobacco program) and the WHO Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.

By maintaining a constant presence at WHO, we will continue to raise awareness for chiropractic and show our dedication to public health and health policy issues. Students are enthusiastic, passionate and energetic, and the profession should continue to support students who are interested in pursuing opportunities such as WHO internships. We need to make sure that we continue to take advantage of opportunities for chiropractic students and chiropractors to become involved and to make their voices heard.

This incredible opportunity would not have been possible without the support of my sponsors. I am a proud graduate of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC), and was inspired to get more involved in the profession as a result of the passion and energy displayed by my mentors at CMCC. I extend a thank-you to CMCC for its continued support of the profession – specifically for supporting me in this unique opportunity to lead the way for future Canadian chiropractic interns and to become the second chiropractic intern at WHO. Additional thanks to the Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA), Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA), World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) and World Congress of Chiropractic Students (WCCS) for their generous support and encouragement. •


  1. WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005.
  2. (Woolf, 2003)

Dr. Jennifer Nash is a 2008 graduate of CMCC.  She practices at The
Natural Way Health Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic in Waterloo,
Ontario, and has a special interest in health policy and advocacy.

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