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Concept: Research Resource for Systematic Review of Complementary and Integrative Health

Council Date: June 2, 2017        

Program Director: Wendy Weber, N.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.        


One of the major challenges in interpreting clinical research data and utilizing the data in clinical practice, health policy, or research program decision making is the assimilation of results of studies by distinct groups of researchers, especially when methods or outcomes differ across studies. This is particularly important when primary findings of individual studies differ.

In 1992, an international group of scientists launched a process to systematically and objectively evaluate and update existing evidence, with a goal of facilitating health practice and health policy decision making. These scientists also conceived a means for timely dissemination of the existing evidence for the practice of medicine. This “Systematic Review” methodology consists of a painstaking process of searching all the published peer-reviewed research literature, defining inclusion criteria to identify the most appropriate studies, summarizing the study results in a systematic and unbiased manner, and disseminating the findings in a manuscript format describing the methods and summary results of the systematic analysis. Such manuscripts are usually published by medical journals or specialized review groups. The review of all controlled clinical trials published in the literature on a given topic and summarizing the results in a systematic and unbiased manner provide a "current best evidence" that may help guide health care practitioners, patients, health care policy, and research administration. The field of complementary and integrative health has benefited greatly from the publication of numerous systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Purpose of Proposed Initiative

This initiative will support a research resource for the continuation of an established database of controlled trials of complementary and integrative health interventions, which are useful to those conducting systematic reviews. The research team will need to describe how an established database will be maintained and kept current, rather than the majority of the efforts geared toward building of a database. The initiative will encourage increasing outreach, access, and availability of the database to a broader scientific community, the public and policymakers. At a minimum, the resource should update at least two current reviews and conduct one new systematic review per year focusing on methodology of topics that are of priority to NCCIH (, particularly complementary mind and body interventions for pain conditions.


The objectives to be met by this concept include but are not limited to the following:

  • Maintain and keep current a research resource consisting of a database of primary reports of controlled trials across the spectrum of complementary and integrative health interventions that are useful and utilized by the scientific community to conduct systematic reviews and meta-analyses;
  • Provide a description of the methods the team will use to determine which new and updated reviews will be conducted to assure that they fit with high priority topics to NCCIH, particularly complementary mind and body interventions for pain conditions;
  • Utilization of the resource to conduct and complete a minimum of one new high-quality systematic review per year and when possible meta-analyses; and update at least two systematic reviews or meta analyses when additional data warrants updating;
  • Describe plans to promote and ensure access and availability of the resource to the broader scientific community, consistent with the program goals of developing and providing resources for furthering systematic reviews and meta-analyses of clinically important complementary and integrative health interventions research;
  • Increase visibility of the resource and its products via outreach (knowledge translation) to the scientific community, the public, stakeholders, and policymakers interested in complementary and integrative health interventions; and
  • Work with the broader scientific community to further develop and enhance the methods of systematic review and meta-analyses for nonpharmacologic interventions, interventions that cannot be blinded in randomized trials, interventions or systems of care delivery that have been evaluated in pragmatic trials, or interventions that cannot be studied in randomized trials. For example, convening of an expert panel to further methods development in this area.