Ahead of the Australian national Budget next week, the Complementary Healthcare Council has called on lawmakers to move away from what it calls a “short-sighted slash-and-burn approach” and adopt a long-term focus of endorsing complementary treatments.
“Broad cuts to health spending and a ‘crisis levy’ are not the long-term solutions that Australia needs to alleviate the issues of an ageing population and unsustainable healthcare system,” said Carl Gibson, chief executive of the CHC.
“Rather than moving from the current health practice of treating people after they become unwell to a system that will only treat people if they can afford to pay for that treatment, the focus needs to be on preventative health and assisting Australians to remain healthy.
“Complementary medicines play a significant role in allowing individuals to maintain a high level of physical and psychological wellness. Investing in complementary medicines research and expanding the use of complementary medicines could maintain quality patient outcomes while saving hundreds of millions of dollars a year in healthcare costs.”
According to Gibson, some recent reports have indicated that selected complementary medicines are able to be highly cost effective, especially in the prevention and management of chronic conditions.
For example,one Access Economics report on the cost-effectiveness of complementary medicines found that the use of St John’s wort, which has been found to be similarly effective as taking a standard anti-depressant for mild to moderate depression, could provide significant costs savings to the Australian health budget.
Indeed, the study suggested that savings of over A$50m (US$46.7m) could be made across the 56% of Australians with mild to moderate depression who are currently taking medication.
Beyond the temporary
“Health policy in Australia does not yet recognise the contribution of complementary medicines or Indigenous medicines, but it should,” added Gibson.
“This is supported by the recently published WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, which encourages governments to harness the potential contribution that complementary medicines can make to health, wellness and people centred healthcare.
“Now is the time that government needs to be thinking beyond achieving a temporary surplus at all costs and placing the onus on solutions that address our long term ability to fund an equitable and sustainable healthcare system.”