Vic Department of Health’s “Better Health Channel”

by Graeme Hanigan

This is the background to a petition addressed to The  Minister of Health, David Davis MLC, calling for a review of the Victorian Department of Health’s Better Health Channel

Penelope Dingle was 45 years old when she died of colorectal cancer on the 25th of August, 2005. Had her cancer been detected and treated when symptoms were first observed 4 years earlier, she may still be alive today.  Instead of seeking medical treatment, Penelope put her health into the incompetent hands of a deluded Homeopathic quack.

At the conclusion of the inquest into the sad death of Penelope Dingle, the W.A. State Coroner made two recommendations.

I bring your attention to the first which reads;

“I recommend that the Commonwealth and State Departments of Health review the legislative framework relating to complimentary and alternative medicine practitioners and practices with a view to ensuring that there are no mixed messages provided to vulnerable patients and that science based medicine and alternative medicine are treated differently”

(the spelling error is theirs not mine!)

We don’t have to look very far for an example of a State Department of Health sending mixed messages about ‘complimentary and alternative medicine’. I draw your attention to the Victorian State Governments Department of Health’s internet based information service, called the Better Health Channel. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/

The Better Health Channel provides downloadable PDF ‘Fact Sheets’ not only relating to medical treatments but also pertaining to the following ‘complementary and alternative health practices’;

Acupuncture, Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Bowen Therapy, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Kinesiology, Massage, Meditation, Myotherapy, Naturopathy, Osteopathy, Reiki, Tai Chi and Yoga.

The Better Heath Channel makes no clear distinction between evidence based medicine and sham medicine. In the list of Tests and Treatments, Aromatherapy appears between Appendicectomy and Arthroscopy.

The wording of the disclaimers is identical and directives to ‘Please seek advice from a qualified health care professional’ could be interpreted equally as referring to an aroma therapist or a medical doctor.

By speculating on unproven health treatments and elevating sham medicine to the same level as evidence based medicine, the Victorian Government is culpably negligent in its obligations to the health consumer.

This attitude is encouraging of a credulous public, leaving health consumers open to abuse by the many charlatans who are only too willing to make easy money by offering false hope to the desperately sick and vulnerable.

There is no alternative to medicine.

The Better Health Channel carries the endorsements ‘approved by independent health and medical experts’ and ‘quality assured by Victorian Government Department of Health’.

These endorsements could lead the uninformed reader to reasonably draw the conclusion that these unproven health treatments actually work!

As an example of the presentation of ambiguous and misleading information, may I draw your attention to the Homeopathy ‘Fact Sheet’ provided by the Australian Homœopathic Association;

http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Homeopathy?open

The ‘Fact Sheet’ makes at least twelve claims of homeopathy that have no scientific basis nor have these claimed properties been substantiated to modern scientific standards. The ‘Fact Sheet’ correctly states five times that homeopathy is based on belief, not science.

The cornerstone of homeopathy, the so called ‘Law of Similars’ is not a demonstrable law of nature like gravity nor is it a law as enacted by legislation. It is more accurately described as the ‘Lore of Similars’ as in folk-lore. Homeopathy lacks scientific grounding and repeated clinical studies, as confirmed by the Cochrane Collaboration Review, show that it lacks evidence of efficacy beyond that of a placebo. 

 

Summary

By speculating on unproven medical practices and elevating sham medicine to the same level as evidence based medicine, the Victorian Government is culpably negligent in its obligations to the health consumer.

This attitude is encouraging of a credulous public, leaving health consumers open to abuse by the many charlatans who are only too willing to make easy money by offering false hope to the desperately sick and vulnerable.

I invite you to join me by signing the petition calling on the Dept. of Health to review the Better Health Channel to ensure that the information provided is genuinely ‘Quality Assured’ by confining itself to science based medicine, supported by credible evidence of efficacy.

If the Dept of Health insists on including references to questionable, unproven, health treatments it should clearly indicate that these treatments are not grounded in science and have no evidence of efficacy beyond that of a placebo.

The objective is to present the petition to the Hon. David Davis MLC, Minister for the Victorian Government’s Department of Health, during World Homeopathy Awareness Week in April 2011.

Please feel free to sign the online petition at:

http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42922.html

 

For more information please contact;

Graeme Hanigan         

Mobile: 0438 359 600      

Email:   writeit@fastmail.com.au

3 Responses to Vic Department of Health’s “Better Health Channel”

  1. Pasulj says:

    What is more disturbing is there are now massive clinics with “alternative medicine” instore such as homeopathy, reflexology, etc… and, from what i understood, the education to become one of these quacks is government funded (at the very least they can get FEE-HELP)…

    http://www.melbournenaturalwellness.com.au/

    http://www.naturopathicwellness.com.au/conditions-treated (this one is a doozy….)

  2. chris routley says:

    True, there is no alterrnative to medicine.
    Also, there really is no clear distinction in fact between your so-called “evidence-based medicine and what you call “sham” medicine. The water is muddied further by the number of mainstream doctors dabbling in things like hair loss and weight loss treatments -obviously exploiting vulnerable patients for profit.
    I have seen enough patients benefit from reflexology, chiropractic, acupuncture, and even aroma therapy to be convinced that scientists and engineers don’t understand everything.
    “Alternative” practitioners are more likely to refer a patient to a conventional doctor than the other way.
    Any doctor will concede that there is nothing wrong with a placebo if it works.

  3. Siva Gounder says:

    Agree with the comment above.. the article on the other-hand is naive..

    Perhaps the author doesn’t know someone who has lost a battle with cancer? Someone who has tried “evidence-based medicine” … I do. The last months of their life were a living hell after they started chemo. If the prognosis is bleak then I know that I would rather enjoy my final few months than undergo conventional hit and miss techniques. And perhaps homeopathy gave Penelope solace in her final months of life.

    I’m not blindly advocating alternative medicine but it absolutely has it’s place. The government (heavily influenced by pharma companies) will have you believe otherwise.. but do you really believe that the government has your personal best in mind? or are they perhaps persuaded by other factors? hmmm.

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