By Carl Gibson
Australia holds a unique opportunity to build capacity in a world-leading complementary medicine research sector and to contribute to informed healthcare choices around the globe. More significant support, encouragement of innovation and investment in Australian complementary medicines are some of the essential aspects of our agenda.
CMA's CEO Carl Gibson
Research in complementary medicine – the vital role of funding
We are fortunate to be home to world-leading research institutions for complementary medicines including the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine (ARCCIM) at Sydney’s University of Technology and the NICM Health Research Institute (NICM) at Western Sydney University. ARCCIM is an excellent public health and health services research centre focusing on traditional, complementary and integrative health care; it brings experts in epidemiology and health economics together.
The envy of the world
A leading complementary medicine research institute in Australia, the NICM Health Research Institute has created a broad network of significant research partnerships with international organisations, including several prestigious universities, hospitals and other agencies in China, Asia, Europe and the US. The NICM Health Research Institute has recently moved to the Westmead precinct, one of the most significant health, education, research and training precincts in the Southern Hemisphere. The research facilities and capabilities of Australia in the field of natural and complementary therapies are the envy of the world, but funding is needed to capitalise on and cement this reputation.
Australia also boasts excellent research centres outside of the university sector, such as the Endeavour College of Natural Health, The National Institute of Integrative Medicine (NIIM) and the Blackmores Institute.
The Endeavour College of Natural Health is a leading higher education provider for complementary and integrative healthcare, in part due to the value placed upon practice-relevant research. In collaboration with universities and other medical bodies, NIIM researches the safety and efficacy of integrative medicine and complementary therapies for the prevention, detection and treatment of disease. It boasts Australia’s largest integrative medical centre, the NIIM Clinic. The Blackmores Institute, the academic and professional arm of Blackmores Limited, was established in 2012 with a vision to improve and promote the quality use of natural medicine via a focus on research and education.
Probiotics, gut health, yoga and more
Just a few examples of recently published research include nutrition and supplementation, probiotics and internal gut health, yoga, natural pain relief methods during childbirth, and the benefits of exercise in mental health. A Cochrane Review, published in November 2018, ‘Omega-3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy’ demonstrated high-quality evidence for omega-3 supplementation as an effective strategy for preventing preterm birth, the leading global cause of death in children under the age of five years.
Given the potential benefits of complementary medicines as a tool towards preventive health, and that we now have world-class facilities poised to take flight in this critical research area, complementary medicines research should be a priority area for funding.
CMA funding– top three recommendations to government
As well as the general need for increased funding support for public health research in Australia, we are recommending that particular areas of research become a priority, including targeted additional support for complementary medicine research groups.
For every dollar invested in Australian health research and development, $2.17 in health benefits is returned. Given the potential benefits of complementary medicines as a tool towards preventive health, complementary medicines research should be a priority area for funding.
Beyond the general need for increased funding support for public health research in Australia, CMA recommends that particular areas of study be prioritised including targeted additional support for complementary medicine research groups.
We’ll keep you informed of developments.