Natural Medicine in Sights of Budget
Recently (3/01/2015) the Weekend Australian newspaper published an article ‘Natural Cures on Budget Hitlist’.
The article cites a review conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) which was highly critical of the evidence base for many natural therapies.
Based on these findings, many natural therapies will be stripped of government subsidies on the grounds that private health insurers and their members have embraced natural therapies and consequently driven up costs.
Currently 13 million Australians have health care policies and many of these policies cover natural therapies. On the 1/4/2015, the rebate is set to be stripped from any policies covering natural therapies not supported by scientific evidence.
Therapies such as acupuncture, Chinese medicine, homoeopathy and some massage techniques have apparently distorted the market by putting pressure on premiums and drawing on the Commonwealths insurance rebate with an estimated cost to the Australian taxpayer of $6 billion dollars a year.
Of concern is what constitutes ‘scientific evidence’. Acupuncture believed to have originated in China anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 years ago and Chinese medicine which has a tradition exceeding 2,000 years, appear to be included in this budget hitlist.
Both modalities address qi and meridians; concepts foreign to western medicine and consequently these forms of natural therapies are dismissed as being ‘pseudo-science’.
Likewise homoeopathy has had a protracted and bitter conflict with orthodox medicine for over 100 years but for its tens of thousands of global advocates it offers “an integrated, coherent and systematic basis for its therapeutic practice”.
Some concepts simply do not allow for a western mindset when it comes to providing ‘scientific evidence’.
In an industry that is growing by the year, are we to assume that the Australian government believe proponents of the Natural Health industry are misinformed ignoramuses?
In 2015 Australian consumers are now:
- More concerned with the pharmaceutical model that sees over 140,000 adverse reactions and approx. 14,000 deaths per year from orthodox medications.
- More informed due to ease of access to enormous amounts of literature in medical journals which is bringing to notice the severe adverse effects of many pharmaceutical drugs
- Wanting diagnosis and treatment to deal with the body as a whole, including diet, exercise, lifestyle and nutritional supplementation, not to just address the parts that are ‘obviously’ diseased.
Whether intentional or not several positives were revealed in the article.
- Private health insurers and its members are embracing alternatives to orthodox medicine.
- 13 million Australians now have health insurance cover that includes natural therapies.
- Natural therapies are growing in popularity.
- Natural medicine is a $4 billion industry in Australia.
- There is rising consumer acceptance of natural medicine.
- Natural therapies has the second largest increase in non-hospital treatment sessions.
When analysing the Weekend Australian article several questions need to be asked.
A Matter of Money
1. Why is it that any time an industry or individual (think Pete Evans) dare to voice a contrary stance on natural health, they are quashed by vocal stakeholders who have a vested interest in maintaining a pharmaceutical model of health?
In 2015, Australians are becoming more proactive in naturally managing their own health.
Consequently one has to ask how much money is being saved by not having to go see a GP, specialist or hospital service because of this knowledge imparted to individuals from the Natural Health industry.
The Australian government, its peak bodies and medical authorities should be promoting and advocating the Natural Health industry in assisting the reduction of costs associated with running Medicare.
The Natural Health industry has become a $4 billion (and growing) per year market in Australia. The government is obviously benefitting from this by way of employment and taxation; so economically it makes sense to drive the promotion of this industry not try to stifle it.
Is the Natural Health industry such a threat (with something as base as profits) to stakeholders of the pharmaceutical model?
A Matter of Policy
2. Why are stakeholders so reluctant to embrace the evolutionary mindset that people are more educated and willing to embrace natural therapies that not only improve their health in a wholistic manner through diet, nutrition, supplementation and exercise but also prevent future health conditions?
Is there a underlying philosophy/ policy that illness and poor health is more profitable for the orthodox medicine, weight loss and pharmaceutical industry?
Why not embrace the concept of a healthy population rather than a overly medicated one?
A Matter of Partnership and Professional Recognition
3. The Natural Health industry needs to be protected from the snake oil pedlars and those that have obtained their qualifications over a couple of weekends.
That is why registration is so important.
Far from espousing the total takeover of Australias health system with Natural Therapies, which is of course dangerous and irresponsible (especially in regard to acute presentations), the Natural Health industry has long advocated the benefits of working alongside (through consultation, referral and partnership) orthodox medicine.
The Natural Health industry is already advocating the importance of registration for qualified Nutritionists, Naturopaths and Herbalists. This process will further allay any concerns of the Australian population while increasing the standard of practitioners and raise the safety bar for patients and consumers.
Currently Naturopaths must undertake a four year full time degree to become qualified while Nutritionists and Herbalists need to complete a three year degree to become registered with a body such as Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) or Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA).
Chinese Medicine and Acupuncturists need to be registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia. All of these organisations have strict rules in order for a practitioner to register.
The Natural Health industry is full of highly qualified, intelligent and compassionate individuals who base their studies and continued education on scientific evidence from peer-reviewed journals of high standing such as the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.
Additionally one cannot ignore the value of centuries of experience and knowledge in the use of herbal medicine and nutrition in the maintenance and recovery of health.
By continuing to marry the knowledge of past experience with essential modern scientific research, the Natural Health industry will continue to grow; despite the vested efforts of the pharmaceutical industry and conventional/ uncompromising orthodox medical fraternities.
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