Australia accelerates CAM accreditation

Australia accelerates CAM accreditation in a lead story about naturopathy.

The accreditation boost emerged from a story alleging dangerous care:

NATUROPATHS and other alternative therapists hope a new national register will separate the qualified practitioners from the shonks.

The industry's reputation was dealt a blow this month after the NSW Supreme Court convicted a homeopath of the manslaughter of his nine-month-old daughter, who died of septicemia caused by chronic eczema.

The court found the refusal of Gloria Thomas's father, Thomas Sam, and his wife, Manju, to seek emergency assistance for their daughter constituted gross negligence.

University of Queensland researcher Jon Wardle, who heads a steering committee that is seeking to establish a national independent register for naturopaths and herbalists by mid-2010, said it would help remove potential conflicts of interest from industry associations that must promote the profession and also protect the public interest....

Mr Wardle said the lack of formal accreditation meant people with as little as one week's training could call themselves naturopaths.

He said most homeopathic remedies were dispensed by naturopaths, but there was evidence that the discipline was gaining recognition among conventional medical groups. British podiatrist and homeopath Tariq Khan, who visited Australia last month, recommends homeopathy be used in conjunction with conventional treatment.

Homeopathy, which was developed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann more than 200 years ago, operates on the idea that substances which can produce symptoms in a healthy person can be used to treat symptoms in the sick.

During his visit, Dr Khan met the head of dermatology at St George Hospital, Dedee Murrell, to discuss using homeopathic remedies to treat the rare genetic condition epidermolysis bullosa. Those with the condition, also known as cotton wool kids, suffer severe skin blistering after minor bumps. There is no cure, but patients are treated with protective bandages. Stevie Hislop, who has recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, is the size of a 10-year-old even though she is 19.

Professor Murrell said Ms Hislop, of Moree, may benefit from additional homeopathic treatment.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association have given qualified support to the use of complementary medicine where there is research about its outcomes.

However, a Sydney Children's Hospital spokeswoman said the use of homeopathy for children was still being debated.

The story has been repeated all over the region:

A steering committee, representing key complementary medicine stakeholder groups, has been established to set up the Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists, which will independently register practitioners and set uniform standards for the naturopathic and herbal medicine workforce.

Nearly one in six Australians utilise complementary therapists as their primary care practitioners.

Other complementary therapists such as chiropractors, osteopaths and Chinese Medicine practitioners are currently regulated or undergoing the process of being regulated by the government. However, naturopaths - by far Australia's largest complementary therapy profession - have no such regulation. There are no national uniform standards for training or ethical practice, placing the public at risk from incompetent or unethical practitioners.

University of Queensland researcher and member of the steering committee, Jon Wardle, said lack of registration was a major public health issue and that this initiative was long overdue.

"Until we get an independent and completely transparent registration process for naturopaths the potential benefits from this sector will remain unrealised and the potential risk of harm to the public maximised," Mr Wardle, of UQ's School of Population Health, said.

Professor Stephen Myers of NatMed Research at Southern Cross University, also on the committee, said registration would enable consumers to check the credentials of practitioners.
"Many graduates in naturopathy and Western herbal medicine complete 3 to 4 years of full time study. By and large the field is made up of well educated professionals. But, unfortunately there is no protection from people with little or no qualifications attempting to practice as a naturopath or herbalist. Setting minimum standards is an idea whose time has come."

John Baxter, President of the National Herbalists Association said "Ensuring minimum standards of naturopaths and herbalists is something we've been pursuing for a long time. Registration will provide greater protection from bogus or unethical practitioners, improve communication between the mainstream and complementary health sectors, and lead to better health outcomes for Australians".

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CAM approaches to pain management are addressed by the American Association of Integrative Medicine:

Pain is the No. 1 reason people seek medical help. Acute-onset pain suggests a medical emergency and immediate medical assistance is necessary. Chronic pain has a significant impact on human life. According to Dr. Zhaoming Chen, the best way to control chronic pain is a multidisciplinary approach that includes complementary and alternative medicine.

Chen, chairman of the American Association of Integrative Medicine and a physician at St. Agnes Hospital, offers several easy ways to help people deal with pain.

•Regular exercise, 20 to 30 minutes daily, can relieve muscle cramping and stiffness, as stretching muscles can accelerate local blood circulation and remove metabolic products. Tai Chi is one of the appropriate exercises that will relieve muscle cramping.

•Eating healthy food can reduce the frequency of migraine headache attacks. The list of foods that trigger migraines is long. The simple way to find out whether or not a specific food triggers an attack is to check the food you ate before each pain attack. You may be able to identify the troublemaker.

•The brains of patients with chronic pain may misinterpret or amplify the pain signal from distant parts of the body. Qigong (a system of breathing and movement) and meditation can help people stay relaxed. Additionally, small doses of vitamin B complex are helpful to decrease stress associated with pain and discomfort.

•If you have to take pain medication, try to minimize the dose, minimizing side effects or drug interactions. Sticking to the schedule of pain medications may reduce rebounding pain.

•It is believed that people with chronic pain may have lower endorphin levels and cerebral spinal fluid, which can be elevated after acupuncture treatment - electrically or manually. Stimulation on special points throughout the body with fingertips is also effective to control headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, lower back pain, abdominal pain, etc.

•High-quality sleep will reduce morning headaches. Go to bed at the same time every night. Watch your body weight closely. Acupuncture and qigong are very effective in helping people sleep.

More information about complementary and alternative medicine is available at the American Association of Integrative Medicine Web site: aaimedicine.com.

A newspaper is seeking holistic health stories:

Reiki, acupuncture, massage, rolfing, reflexology, kinesiology, and many other treatments are now routinely used by people to supplement their health and wellbeing.

What kinds of complementary treatments have you tried? How do you balance your health? What helps to maintain your well-being?

Let us know. Hit the comment button and tell us your holistic story.

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From another version of the story about Australian regulation:

ONE in six Australians visit a complementary therapist as their primary health carer, but experts fear many do so without being aware of the possible risks.

University of Queensland researcher Jon Wardle is calling for the registration of complementary medicine therapists to make it safer for people to consult a naturopath.

Mr Wardle, a research scholar in the area of complementary therapy and a qualified naturopath with UQ's School of Population Health, says registration is long overdue.

"One in six people use complementary therapists as their primary healthcare practitioner and yet currently anyone can hang up a shingle and begin practising without any qualifications at all,'' Mr Wardle said.

"This is a major public health issue.''

He said a quack in the NSW city of Newcastle offered cures for untreatable cancers with backyard concoctions.

"This particular man shouldn't have been practising in the first place because he had convictions for fraud and armed robbery, on top of falsifying his qualifications,'' Mr Wardle said.

"This is something that any other health profession would have stripped him from practice straight away, but there's no legal restriction on calling yourself a naturopath.''

Others had tried to treat serious medical problems which needed referral to other health professionals.

A naturopathy student can spend four years obtaining a university degree to practise responsibly or a charlatan can start a practice with little more than a glib tongue.

Complementary medicine groups plan to establish a national register of naturopaths and herbalists by 2010.

Registration already exists for Chinese medicine practitioners, chiropractors and osteopaths.