Senior official: Australia needs preventative-curative health approach

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Complementary medicines, Medicine

Australian governments must wean patients off expensive hospital treatment by investing more heavily in preventative medicine and risk management, according to a senior health official, at a time when lifestyle diseases are putting a serious strain on health budgets.

Mark Cormack, deputy secretary of the federal Department of Health, said that a dramatic increase in conditions such as obesity and diabetes among Australian are now “well and truly outstripping​” other serious diseases. 

The government’s current emphasis on treatment over prevention means that the Treasury must pay for this imbalance unless other segments of the health industry play a role in mitigating the financial burden of healthcare spending that is constantly rising above inflation, he cautioned.

A strong balance between preventive and curative care is essential to keep our economy strong and growing​,” Cormack told the Australian’s​ Beyond the Boardroom forum in Sydney.

Cormack’s comments come shortly after the return of Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative Liberal government following a snap election. Ahead of the poll, the opposition Labor party announced a raft of cuts including a move to stop taxpayer-funded private health insurance rebates for natural therapies if it came to power.

The subsidy covers a wide range of natural therapies including complementary medicines, which have been shown to save the Australian economy A$10 for every A$1 invested in preventative health, according to CMA, the natural health industry lobby group.

The Liberals, however, have been working to gradually reduce the level of red tape required for the registration of complementary medicines in one of the world’s strictest regulatory environments.

Sussan Ley, reappointed as federal health minister, is expected to continue the government’s commitment to a “first-class health system​”, and pursue the findings of an expert review of the medical regulatory system, which are wholeheartedly supported by CMA.

The focus of the government on cutting regulatory red tape throughout the last parliamentary term was welcomed by the complementary medicines industry​,” said Carl Gibson, CMA’s chief executive. 

Early adoption of the expert panel’s recommendations will ensure that Australia has an appropriate, current and exceptional regulatory system that promotes health and wellbeing, and supports and grows our industry​.”

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