Launch of Parkinson’s Australia Rural and Remote GP On-Line Education Program Canberra 17 March 2009
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17 March 2009
Senator Carol Brown, special guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to join you here today.
The launch today of the Parkinson’s Australia Rural and Remote GP On-line Education Program is an opportunity to remind all of us of the impact of chronic diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, on individuals, families and the Australian community more broadly.
The Australian Government recognises the burden that chronic disease imposes and is committed to improving our health care system through an extensive program of health care reform.
A key element of the reform process is the development of the National Primary Health Care Strategy.
Work on the Strategy will link with current related health reform processes, including the National Healthcare Agreement, the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission and the Preventative Health Strategy. The draft report of the Strategy is expected to be delivered to my colleague, Minister Roxon, the Minister for Health and Ageing, in mid 2009.
Parkinson’s disease, which is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, can actually be difficult to diagnose accurately.
Currently there are no blood or laboratory tests that have been proven to assist in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Rather, diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination.
On 11 April 2008, World Parkinson’s Day, the Hon Minister Roxon, announced funding of $90,000 to Parkinson’s Australia for a project to develop and implement an online education and support program for doctors. This funding was in addition to the $132,000 raised by Parkinson’s Australia and its state and territory affiliates.
The aim of this project, which I am very pleased to be launching today, is to provide doctors, especially those in regional and remote Australia, with guidance and information on the diagnosis and management of Parkinson’s disease.
The Program, which is free-of-charge, will provide a complete overview of Parkinson’s disease. It includes assistance with decision making, advice about medication, and the treatment of related factors such as depression, anxiety and lifestyle factors.
The Program’s resources have been accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, and are now part of the Colleges’ Continuing Professional Development program. Achieving such accreditation is tremendous, as not only does it testify to the quality of the resources, but it is also another means by which doctors will become aware of, and be encouraged to use these resources which will in turn reinforce best practice in the care of people with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s Australia, and its state and territory affiliates have a long history of raising awareness of Parkinson’s disease, and this project is one example of their excellent work and practical commitment to raising awareness and improving care for people suffering with Parkinson’s disease.
Australia’s population continues to age and this means more and more people will develop Parkinson’s disease. The Australian Government has allocated substantial funding for clinical research into Parkinson’s disease through the National Health and Medical Research Council. In 2008, the amount directed to Parkinson’s disease related research reached almost $7 million.
Recent research efforts have included projects aimed at finding more accurate methods to diagnose the illness; uncovering the role that genes may have in the development of the disease and developing innovative therapeutic approaches to alleviate or prevent the disease; and development of stem cell therapies to find a cure.
On 14 May 2008, my colleague, the Hon Jenny Macklin, The Minister for Minister for Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, asked the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth to inquire into and report on better support for carers.
The Committee will conduct an inquiry to determine how to better meet the needs of carers who look after people with chronic illness, disability or frailty. The Committee is currently hearing submissions and anticipates it will finalise proceedings later in 2009.
The Australian Government also helps with the cost of numerous medicines for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – the PBS. In 2007-08, expenditure for PBS listed medicines for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease was approximately $37.1 million.
I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the Australian Government’s commitment to the prevention and management of chronic disease, such as Parkinson’s. I would also like to thank Parkinson’s Australia for inviting me today and commend them for developing such an excellent on-line education program that will assist all clinicians to improve their knowledge and understanding of how to diagnose and treat people living with Parkinson’s disease.
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