ACORN Project

Australian Chiropractic Research Network (ACORN)

ACORN was launched in 2014 funded by the Australian Chiropractors Association (ACA) and was completed by the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM) at the University of Technology Sydney under the leadership of Professor Jon Adams. It directly involved practitioners and patients from over 1000 clinics

ACORN was the first national, longitudinal and sustainable practice-based research network program focusing on chiropractic worldwide. The program was designed to address research questions of clinical and practice significance via a mixed-method approach with particular emphasis upon:

  • effectiveness;
  • affordability and cost-effectiveness;
  • safety;
  • wellbeing, health promotion and prevention; and
  • patient motivations, experiences and satisfaction/evaluations of chiropractic care.

A core feature was the development of ‘sub-studies’ were able to focus upon areas of practice and issues central to chiropractic in Australia. Such sub-studies can focus upon any aspect of chiropractic (eg. paediatrics). It is inherently inclusive and expansive with opportunities for all within the chiropractic research community to engage and co-research via secondary analysis, initiating new sub-studies and/or utilising ACORN as a national recruitment resource.

It established a sustainable database for ongoing chiropractic research development. The program focus and output on practice and policy benefits and provided excellent promotion opportunities for chiropractic in relation to funding bodies, policymakers and government.


The study had a number of interrelated yet distinct aims. These were to:

  1. Produce extensive, quality research output (evidence-based) focused upon chiropractic in relation to the issues of efficacy, affordability and cost-efficiency, safety, wellbeing, health promotion and prevention, patient motivation, experience and satisfaction/evaluation.
  2. Establish a sustainable, national longitudinal research resource (national database) for chiropractic in Australia.
  3. Provide a solid platform for future applications to NHMRC/ARC for external grant funding.
  4. Develop extensive partnerships and collaborations across the chiropractic research community and beyond.
  5. Develop national research capacity in chiropractic (especially via facilitating PHDs).
  6. Improve chiropractic research public relations/promotion.
  7. Directly impact health practice and policy.
  8. Improve the standing of chiropractic in Australia more broadly.

There were three stages to the program

Stage 1 – Systematic and Critical Integrative Reviews

A minimum of two systematic/critical integrative reviews of key practice areas. These reviews were conducted and managed by the ARCCIM team with input from the ACA where relevant. These reviews will provide an evaluation of the current evidence-base for selected practice topics.

Stage 2 – Practitioner-Focused Recruitment and Quantitative Data Collection

This data collection phase (Phase 2) provided both initial data for analysis and acts as the essential national recruitment drive for the latter phases of the ACORN longitudinal program. All ACA practising members were approached and recruited for the program. This provided an excellent, nationally-representative sample of chiropractors. All respondents were forwarded a questionnaire seeking self-reported data on a number of topics including:

  • practice orientation and features (areas of interest and expertise)
  • safety and benefits of chiropractic
  • decision-making and information seeking/sources
  • communication with patients.

Stage 3 – Patient-Focused Quantitative and Qualitative Longitudinal Data Collection

This section of the program provided extensive opportunity to examine patient motivation for, experience of and satisfaction with chiropractic care and measure the effectiveness of chiropractic care and treatments (over time) including impacts on pain, quality of life and financial costs. Recruitment for this section of data collection was through those practitioners recruited in the previous section. Practitioners were requested to administer a questionnaire to a sample of patients (recruited over a time period and with specific characteristics in mind eg suffering from low back pain or headaches). This data collection was longitudinal in design, following a cohort of patients over a specified time period.


The ACORN longitudinal program produced an extensive range of research outputs including a wide-range of peer-reviewed journal articles (over the three years of the funded-phases of the program and beyond). A minimum of 12 peer-reviewed journal articles would be produced over the three years. To date, 24 peer-reviewed journal articles have been produced.

In addition to peer-reviewed journal articles, dissemination will also be via presentations to the ACA (regional and national meetings) and other opportunities to reach the chiropractic community and important external stakeholders including policymakers and government agencies (such as NHMRC). All findings will be reported on the ARCCIM website and media releases will be undertaken where relevant. International dissemination will be via international networks such as NORPHCAM and the ISCMR and via international presentations at relevant chiropractic and health meetings and conferences.


ARCCIM houses world-leading expertise in a broad range of health research methods and disciplines in the study of Complementary Medicine (CM) such as health economics, health social science, health services research, biostatistics and epidemiology. ARCCIM research staff have attracted over $7million in competitive research grant funding in CM.

Its research agenda is to examine complementary and integrative medicine treatments, practice and professional issues. ARCCIM’s mission is:

  • to develop research capacity in CM research (including promoting research skills amongst practitioners).
  • to promote excellence in health research examining CM use, CM practice, CM-conventional health care integration, health economics of CM and health services and research of safety, affordability and effectiveness of CM.
  • to promote and foster closer ties between CM researchers and practitioners to ensure scholarship includes practitioner input where relevant and is reflective of practice-realities and needs.

View the list of publications produced by ACORN.