SBS The Feed, Session 2019, Episode 7, Cure or Quack

A controversial government review that’s about to change what’s available for private health fund rebate.

Presented by: Marc Fennell and Jan Fran

The program featured Naturopath Barbara O’Neil and her Misty Mountain Health Retreat, “where some people come with quite serious illness, like Lisa”. Lisa has gone against her doctor’s advice to have surgery and put her trust in Barbara instead.

But Barbara’s work as an alternative healer is under threat. “Unfortunately, it is claimed I’m a health risk now”.  She is currently under a prohibition order from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. Jane Hansen has also written about Barbara in The Sunday Telegraph, 30 Dec 2018, “Naturopath’s cancer ‘healing’ claims under the microscope”.

Barbara says, “If someone has cancer my suggestion is no fruit for 6 weeks…”. “It’s the cycle of life that proves why vaccines don’t work because the body can heal itself…”. A petition in support of Barbara currently has 21,689 signatures.  

The government review that’s about to change what’s available for private health fund rebates will mean no more money back on things like Yoga, Pilates and Homeopathy from April 1, 2019.

A therapeutic Yoga teacher who works with mainstream organisations such as the Cancer Council of NSW said the changes will mean that many people will miss out on the health benefits of yoga because it’s going to cost them too much money now.”

Assoc Prof Jon Wardle said, “There is good evidence for some natural therapies, it’s just that the government review excluded it. It didn’t look beyond the English language, so things like yoga, where much of the research is Indian, things like Tai Chi, where much of the research is Chinese…. were not even looked at”.

In fact, Table 5 of the, “Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance” detailed the relatively small number of potentially relevant studies excluded due to language difficulties. For yoga, the review assessed 67 systematic reviews and 111 randomised controlled clinical trials involving 31 clinical conditions and 6,562 participants. The report also noted that advice was sought from the Indian Council of Medical Research to identify appropriate research. Despite follow-up, at the time of writing the report, a response had not been received.

Also, the program did not mention that Jon Wardle is trained as a naturopath and his University Research Centre for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM) receives funding from the Jacka Foundation. The latter’s stated vision is, “A society where natural therapies are the first choice for people seeking informed control of their health and wellbeing”. In short, Wardle has a conflict of interest that was not reported.

When I was interviewed, I pointed out that the Private Health Insurance rebate is paid for by 100% of taxpayers yet it only benefits around 50% of people who can afford private health insurance. I agreed that exercise, including Yoga and Tai Chi is good, but why not subsidise gym membership or walking clubs? More money should be spent on prevention, but this should be for everyone, not just for those who can afford private health insurance. This and other relevant comments did not make it air.

Finally, making an informed choice means having access to good information, not the information purveyed by people like Barbara O’Neill.

I leave it to others to answer the question, was this was a balanced presentation?

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About Dr Ken Harvey

Public Health Physician, Medical activitist
This entry was posted in Advertising, Choosing wisely, Natural Therapies, Private Health Insurance and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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