NHAA responds to Friends of Science in Medicine



The National Herbalist Association of Australia (NHAA) has finally decided to respond openly to the campaign by Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) to close University taught complemetary and alternative medicine courses.  Although the NHAA president, Leah Hechtman was interviewed by the ABC on January 26 – alongside Prof Dwyer (FSM) and Prof Kerryn Phelps (President Australasian Integrative Medicine Association) there has been little noise made by the association in regards to this matter. It really doesnt help that the above interview didnt even make it to air, which of course looks like they have done nothing public at all, until now.


Here is a media release, an open letter from Leah Hechtman addressing the NHAA’s views regarding FSM

Education for CAM endorsed by Professionals

Friday, 03 February 2012 13:36

Friends of Science in medicine claims are not reflective of reality, says the NHAA. Their recent media activity calling for universities and health funds to reject complementary medicine is counter to the opinion of many industry professionals. 

There has been significant media activity pertaining to a group called ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ (FSM). The main aim of this organisation is to have ‘pseudoscience’ healthcare courses removed from Australian universities and from the Australian private health fund sector. The FSM named naturopathy as an example of a pseudoscience healthcare course. 

The NHAA believes this to be a retrograde step which could affect public safety, slow research efforts into the therapies adopted by complementary medicine practitioners and limit the opportunity for scientific evidence to be more fully integrated into naturopathic training. 

The NHAA strongly feels that naturopathic and Western herbal medicine practitioners should be integrated into the healthcare system.  President Leah Hechtman says “to achieve this, we need to increase our evidence base which requires university training. Without university training, research opportunities for practitioners and complementary medicines will reduce. To exclude naturopathic and Western herbal medicine courses from undergraduate or post graduate programs at Australian Universities is irresponsible.” She also said “In order to safeguard the public, practitioners of these modalities need to be part of the same rigorous training and education as other health professionals. A university offering such a course prevents other, less rigorous, “fringe” educational operators from releasing poorly educated practitioners into the community. An open discussion between all the patients’ healthcare providers can be the safest solution and safety has to be the best policy for all involved. 

More than 70% of Australians use over the counter complementary medicine products and many of these also use complementary medicine therapies. This highlights that private health insurance companies are unlikely to cease rebates of CM treatments as the demand is simply too high. Dr Lesley Braun (Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre) says “hundreds of thousands of Australians are using complementary medicine and therapies. Whilst some treatments have been well researched, the vast majority have not. Strong scientific training and rigorous research methodologies will go far in helping naturopaths join the research ranks and continue to build the evidence base for these approaches which the public clearly want.” 

Additionally, the demand for high quality CM training is increasing. CM courses now attract medical doctors, research scientists, pharmacists and other health professionals. To abolish these courses from universities would be detrimental to the future health care and safety of the public. 

All courses accredited by the NHAA are required to teach research methodology, the principles of evidence based medicine and critical thinking and basic sciences including pharmacology. Herbalist and vice president  Liz Hammer believes in the rigorous development of higher education standards and states “ The continued presence of these disciplines in both undergraduate and post graduate university courses is vital to encourage the research required to inform evidence based practice’ in complementary medicine. ” 

The NHAA prides itself on its professionalism and respectful reputation in the wider health community and is the oldest and largest association representing Naturopaths and Western herbalists in Australia. 

Media enquiries for interviews with President Leah Hechtman 0411590701 

Contact media Liaison Dominique Finney 0409 765033   media@nhaa.org.au

I seriously wonder why it has taken the NHAA this long to respond.  Sure there was probably a lot of checking to be done, phone calls to be made, discussions to be had to ascertain what this means for the members of the NHAA who practice, teach and what not.  But I would have thought that this campaign would have had enough people up in arms to say something public before 9 days after the event had already passed.

FSM was founded in December 2011.
January 24th – FSM sent out a media release entittled “Quack treatments duck for cover”.
January 25th – Sydney Morning Herald and The Age brought this media release to the public’s attention.
January 26th – ABC interview that never gets aired
January 27th Herbology article  “No friends of people’s medicine

February 3rd – NHAA sends out media release above.

It is a great relief to read that since the original media release on January 24, ” there has been significant developments from a number of people. A significant number of researchers and Doctors are pulling out of FSM as they feel they were ‘hoodwinked’ and weren’t aware of the full picture – including the AMA president who immediately withdrew his signature. It is anticipated that even more members will withdraw in the next few weeks.”

Look, I am not rubbishing the NHAA but I am saying that they need to be a lot more vocal so the public know they exist and that they and their members are indeed doing their utmost to provide safe and high quality healthcare for the public, as they say is their primary goal.  Their discussion forums may have been hot with traffic, but the public does not see that.

For those of you who have not yet signed the petition that is going around, please go to  http://www.change.org/petitions/protect-university-education-in-natural-medicine  to make your voice heard.

Personally, it looks to me like FSM have shot themselves in the foot with this campaign, but it never hurts to have the numbers – just in case 🙂


P.S. On the NHAA media page, the two events shown are in 2010.  Has there been NOTHING newsworthy happening since then? Really??? And this from the same people that claim that “The NHAA is the authoritative source of information relating to western herbal medicine in Australia.”
A bit sad really.




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