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Committee On Alternative Health Therapies

20 December 2000 Media Statement

Terms Of Reference For Committee On Alternative Health Therapies

Health Minister Annette King has announced the terms of reference and responsibilities for the committee advising her on complementary and alternative health therapies, products and practitioners.

Mrs King said the committee, funded from money provided in the Budget for Green Party initiatives, would provide her with a report at least once a year on its activities, and she might also commission extra reports on specific issues.

"Committee membership will be broadly representative of key complementary healthcare stakeholders. There will be eight members, including three complementary healthcare practitioners, a mainstream clinician, a nurse. a consumer, a Mäori health representative and a Pacific health representative. Membership can be supplemented by working groups if extra specialist expertise is required, and the Committee will be supported by a small secretariat in the Ministry of Health."

Green Party health spokesperson Sue Kedgley says she is "delighted that Annette King has agreed to taking this first step towards recognising properly registered complementary therapists and ensuring that consumers using complementary therapies are properly protected.

"In the long run, further research into and use of cost-effective complementary healthcare may improve the overall health of New Zealanders, reduce our dependence on prescription drugs, including antibiotics, and help shift our emphasis towards preventing rather than just treating illness.

"As we enter the 21st Century we need to leave behind the narrow mindset that says orthodox Western medicine is the only effective way of treating illness. It's time to acknowledge that there are other effective healing practices."

Mrs King said factors in developing the terms of reference included:

 other initiatives being undertaken by the Ministry in the area of complementary and alternative healthcare

 the paucity of rigorous scientific evidence to demonstrate that people benefit from complementary and alternative therapies (although there is much anecdotal evidence in favour of complementary and alternative therapies and increasing numbers of people are turning to them)
 the significant amount of research to be undertaken in some areas before any decisions can be taken on integrating complementary and alternative medicine with mainstream health
 likely opposition from mainstream clinicians to establishing an advisory committee with a wide brief before a research base has been set up.

The key tasks, or Terms of Reference, are:
i) to provide information and advice to the Minister on complementary and alternative healthcare
ii) to provide advice on how complementary and alternative healthcare can improve outcomes in priority areas in the New Zealand Health Strategy
iii) to provide advice on the need, or otherwise, to regulate complementary and alternative healthcare practitioners to protect consumers who use complementary and alternative healthcare
iv) to provide advice on consumer information needs and, in particular, advice on the benefits, risks and costs of complementary and alternative therapies
v) to review overseas evidence-based research, identify priorities for the development of New Zealand evidence-based research on the safety and efficacy of specific complementary and alternative therapies and support the development of guidelines
vi) to provide advice on whether, and how, specified complementary and alternative health practitioners should be integrated into the mainstream health system.

Ends

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