The role of complementary medicines in Australia’s preventive health strategy

Complementary Medicines Australia has called on the Federal Government to recognise the role of complementary medicines in preventive health with the implementation of four key measures in its 2022-23 Budget Submission.

There is robust evidence in a number of areas that complementary medicines are a cost-effective option to improve health outcomes.

Supporting the use of complementary medicines and natural therapies for cost-effectively contributing to good health and easing the burden on the health system, CMA recommends that Government expedite restoring private health rebates for natural therapies, while allowing autonomy for private health funds to once again offer these services to Australians.

Effective and cost-effective

Chronic health conditions are the leading cause of poor health and mortality in Australia and significantly impact other parts of people’s lives. Individuals use complementary medicines ancillary to conventional medicine to help manage chronic disease, prevent the exacerbation of illness, and to optimise nutrition and wellbeing. There is robust evidence in a number of areas that complementary medicines are a cost-effective option to improve health outcomes.

Carl Gibson, Complementary Medicine Australia’s Chief Executive commentating on a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on chronic conditions, said; “There is ample evidence supporting the use of complementary medicines in achieving greater health and wellbeing at reduced public cost; facilitating disease prevention and addressing the burden of chronic disease. For example, the National Heart Foundation supports fish, fish oils and polyunsaturated acids and their role in cardiovascular health. Other interventions have shown strong evidence of safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness.”

The most recent AIHW report, ‘Life and work experience Australians with chronic conditions’, looked at people aged 15-64 before 2020 and took an in-depth look at factors associated with poor health among mature working-age Australians (aged 45-64) living with chronic conditions. According to AIHW about 47% of Australians are estimated to have at least one chronic health condition, such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and mental and behavioural conditions.

A thoughtful and rigorous addition

Carl Gibson said, “Preventive health is an essential move towards improving the cost-effectiveness of the health care system, by enhancing Australians’ health and quality of life, and reducing preventable chronic diseases. In the case of complementary medicines, a thoughtful and rigorous addition to the preventive health strategy, would further demonstrate the cost-effectiveness and health benefits of complementary medicines contributing to improved public health.”

To further support preventive health, greater investment into complementary medicines research and translation of evidence into practice is required. Australia holds a unique opportunity to build capacity in a world-leading complementary medicine research sector and to contribute to informed healthcare choices around the globe.

Targeted additional support

Beyond the general need for increased funding support for public health research in Australia, CMA recommends that particular areas of research priority include targeted additional support for complementary medicine research groups.

A healthier Australia can be achieved with consumers, clinicians and government gaining clarity of the clinical benefits of many complementary medicine interventions, their comparative cost effectiveness and the quality controls associated with their development and use for the health benefits of Australians.

CMA thanks the Government for the opportunity to provide a submission for the 2022-23 Commonwealth Budget consultation process.

To view CMA’s 2022-23 Federal Budget Submission, please visit: 



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