The Science Party wants all people to experience the wonders that the future holds. To make sure this happens, we need to ensure that our minds and bodies are kept healthy. An efficient, well-resourced and intelligent public health system is an essential part of achieving this for every person.
The early death of any individual is a tragic waste. The longer a person is alive and healthy, the more they can enjoy life, and the more time they have to spend on their favourite pursuits and to share with their loved ones.
The Science Party believes that the improvement in quality of life and extension of life of individuals will ultimately pay for itself, as those who live longer will have more productive working lives, which in turn allows more time and money to be spent in developing their knowledge and skills. A healthier population means greater progress for society as a whole, allowing the individual to enjoy a longer life while also contributing to society for a longer period.
The Science Party believes that the following policies should be a focus of reforms made to the health system by the federal government.
Policy: Support for ‘No Jab No Play‘ and ‘No Jab No Pay’.
Discussion: The Science Party supports preventative health measures that have been found to be effective, and vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures available.
While linking welfare to vaccination status will spur parents who simply didn’t get around to vaccinating their children to do so, it won’t change the minds of anyone who believes that vaccines cause more harm than they prevent. However, the government’s first responsibility in this situation is to protect public health, and that includes maximising the uptake of vaccines to protect those who cannot be vaccinated (babies prior to their first vaccines and the immunocompromised) or those for whom vaccines are ineffective. A measure which increases the percentage of children who are vaccinated must take precedence.
Ideally we would be able to change mistaken beliefs about vaccines through education. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that offering sound arguments about the safety of vaccines does little to change established beliefs that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they help prevent.
We believe the better approach is wider promotion of critical thinking from an early age (see our Education policy) to equip people with the tools to differentiate fact from manipulation at all stages and in all areas of life.
2. Electronic health records
Policy: Strongly promote electronic health records and ensure it is easy to sign up to the database on an opt-in basis.
Discussion: The current electronic health record system is underused even though it has the potential to improve health care greatly. The government should ensure that this system can achieve its full potential as a preventative and health care aid.
Electronic records can easily move between between GPs when an individual moves, and are easily accessible to hospitals and specialists. They will reduce oversights and also allow for deep data analysis, meaning that computer algorithms can, for example, inform practitioners if the patient’s existing symptoms indicate another underlying condition.
3. Mental health
Undetected and untreated mental illness is a cause of loss and grief in our society. The Science Party believes that early intervention will prevent some of these outcomes while relieving the strain on the health system of treating advanced illness.
3.1. Early intervention
Policy: Continue funding for early intervention in psychosis.
Discussion: The Science Party welcomes and supports recent moves by the Federal government to fund early intervention services for people suffering psychosis and related disorders. This model accords with both the latest evidence from clinical research and with The Science Party’s general preference for greater preventative rather than reactive healthcare, as the most effective and affordable way to achieve better health outcomes.
3.2. Intermediate mental health services
Policy: Provide intermediate-level mental health services across Australia
Discussion: Most resources in Mental Health in Australia are invested in high level acute care – primarily, people undergoing emergencies requiring treatment in psychiatric hospitals; and in low level care – treatment of low to moderately severe cases of anxiety and depression in the general population, by general practitioners and psychologists. There are few publicly funded treatment services available that fall between these levels of care, for example for people suffering serious chronic mental health conditions who are not experiencing an acute episode. Given the large costs to both the individual and society of responding to and treating psychiatric emergencies, the Science Party supports the provision of more medium level services to reduce the incidence of acute ill health, and to enable the chronically mentally ill to be productive and flourishing members of society.
3.3. Mental health first aid training
Policy: Train 10% of all front line government employees in mental health first aid.
Discussion: Front line public sector employees, including emergency service workers but also, for instance, bus drivers, teachers and Centrelink staff, frequently have to work with members of the public suffering from mental health problems. This may include encountering psychiatric emergencies in their workplaces, such as a suicide attempt or a psychotic episode.
The Science Party would introduce a requirement for at least 10% of all front line public employees to receive basic training in identifying and responding to mental health problems, in the form of the Australian developed and award-winning Mental Health First Aid certificate. This is a modest requirement as the course is inexpensive and requires only a day of training.
4. Food labelling
Policy: Adjust alcoholic beverage labelling to include nutritional information.
Discussion: Alcoholic beverages contain a significant amount of energy and yet they are exempted from having to include nutritional information on its packaging, despite the fact that mass produced alcoholic beverages have highly controlled ingredient compositions. Consumers should be given the ability to find out the energy content of alcoholic beverages as easily as for any other food or beverage.