82% of Australians use complementary and alternative health products and services. Complementary health products and services are used together with western medicine, while alternative health products and services are used in stead of western medicine. Complementary and alternative health products and services include: natural medicines (herbs, nutrition, homeopathy, Chinese medicine etc), supplementation (vitamins, minerals, oils, protein, vegetable powders etc), physiological treatment (physiotherapy, osteotherapy, remedial massage, occupational therapists, acupuncture etc), and energy based treatments (crystals, some forms of massage, acupuncture etc). There are many reasons for growth of complementary and alternative health care products and services. These include: increased credibility of many complementary and alternative health services, the growing multiculturalism of Australia, health insurance cover, regulatory bodies and professional associations being made, and Australians seeking a more holistic approach to health.
Though western medical practitioners continue to state there is little evidence for the proposed benefits of complementary and alternative health products and services, there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. There has been a growth in western research into complementary and alternative health products and services with many Journals existing that provide evidence around many complementary and alternative health products and services. The University of Technology Sydney has also added a research centre on complementary and integrative medicine (http://www.uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/our-research/arccim).
Further credibility is given to complementary and alternative health products and services as practitioners gain tertiary qualifications in order to be registered and practice. Many complementary and alternative health practitioners are required to complete 3-7 years of tertiary training, often combining bachelor and masters degrees in order to register and provide services in Australia. Examples of this include the 4-year Bachelor of health science in traditional Chinese medicine at UTS, and Osteopathy, which requires a 5-year university masters degree offered at Southern Cross University.
Furthermore, the development of regulatory bodies and professional associations has increased the credibility of many complementary and alternative health products and services. The Australian Traditional Medicine Society is one such body, as is the Australian Natural Therapies Association. Regulation of complementary and alternative health products and services is conducted by the Commonwealth Government through the Therapeutic Goods Administration and its Complementary Medicines Branch (www.tga.gov.au/complementary-medicines). However, in Australia you do not need to be registered in order to practice some complementary and alternative health care approaches. This makes consumer choice and knowledge very important when seeking treatment.
Health insurance cover has come with the introduction of regulatory bodies and professional associations and the increased demand for use of complementary and alternative health products and services.
The growth in multiculturalism in Australia, particularly from eastern (Asian) countries has brought with it a growth of complementary and alternative health products and services. For many cultures their traditional medicines are their primary health care providers. This includes: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, herbal medicine etc. People from other cultural backgrounds are comfortable using these treatments and prefer them to the western medical approach, which utilises drugs and technology over a more natural and holistic approach.
There has been a great change amongst Australian society with increased demand for health choice and the growing choice for holistic and ‘natural’ treatment methods over drugs and technology. Many are choosing to use complementary and alternative health products and services to both prevent and treat illness and disease. Many people, who use complementary and alternative health care, report using it because of the failure of the western medical system and a desire for a healthy lifestyle. Often people who seek these approaches suffer from chronic conditions, such as back pain, CVD or cancer.