The Italian Osteopathic Practitioners Estimates and RAtes (OPERA) study: A cross sectional survey
The prevalence of osteopathic practitioners, their professional profile and features of their clinical practice, particularly where statutory regulation does not yet exist, are still significantly underreported. The Osteopathic Practitioners Estimates and RAtes (OPERA) project was developed as an European-based census dedicated to profiling the osteopathic profession across Europe. The present study aimed to describe the osteopathic practitioners and the profession in Italy. A voluntary, online based, closed-ended survey was distributed across Italy in the period between February and June 2017. An e-based campaign was set up to reach the Italian osteopathic professionals. Participants were asked to complete the forms by filling in the information regarding the demographics, working status and professional activities, education, consultation fees, patient complaints, treatment and management. The survey was completed by 4816 individuals. 196 people started the survey but did not finish, which corresponds to a 4% attrition rate. The majority of respondents were males (66.7%). The modal age group was 30–39 (40.0%). 73.8% of respondents had a previous academic degree, mainly in the fields of sports science (36.4%) and physiotherapy (25.3%). 25.6% declared not to have a previous academic degree. The majority of respondents declared to work alone (58.4%), while the remaining declared to work in association with other professionals. The osteopaths /citizens ratio was 8.0 osteopaths/100,000 citizens. The profile of osteopaths in Italy seems to be characterised by a self-employed young adult male working mostly as a sole practitioner, who has been trained as osteopath through a part-time curriculum and had a previous degree mostly in the fields of sports science or physiotherapy. These results provide important insights into the osteopathic profession in Italy. The varied professional educational backgrounds need to be considered with regard to the implementation of a professional licensing process and future pre-registration education in the country. The number of respondents is an estimate of the actual number of Italian osteopaths. Only the completion of the regulatory process and the creation of the mandatory official register will allow to know the number of Italy based osteopaths.