Alternative medicine worth $1b

THE ALTERNATIVE health market in Australia is now worth $1 billion a year.

With 57 per cent of Australians visiting an alternative health practitioner in the last year, the term ‘alternative’ has become somewhat redundant.

Industry sources believe Aust-ralia will follow the lead of the US with demand for these types of health care eventually outstripping that for conventional Western medicine.

A recent report entitled Towards a Safer Choice – the practice of traditional Chinese medicine in Australia, commissioned by the NSW, Victorian and Queensland Health Departments, found traditional Chinese medicine had an annual turnover of $84 million.

The importation of Chinese herbal medicines has increased by 100 per cent a year since 1993.

The research revealed the average alternative medicine user was a tertiary educated female aged between thirty and fifty employed in a professional or managerial position.

The established medical professions and pharmaceutical companies are no doubt concerned that the popularity of these treatments may be due to increasing distrust of synthetic drugs and dissatisfaction with the increasingly impersonal nature of medical centres.

More universities are beginning to offer degrees in either traditional Chinese medicine or natural and complementary medicine.

Health insurers are even beginning to respond to requests for the inclusion of alternative treatments such as naturopathy, remedial and shiatsu massage.

Many medical practitioners are becoming convinced there is room for both Western and alternative medicine.

While bacterial infections and acute conditions almost always benefit from Western medicine, the effect of alternative treatments on chronic conditions of gastrointestinal, rheumatological or viral origin may be worth considering.

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