Written by: Victor Chan
Health care in British Columbia costs more than $18 billion per year. That’s more than $49 million every day. These massive costs, our aging population, and longer life spans, mean we need to be focused on healthy living more than ever and naturopathic medicine is a key part of that.
Naturopathic Medicine Week began Monday. This is an important event the British Columbia Naturopathic Association participates in to inform British Columbians about naturopathic medicine and the valuable role naturopathic doctors play in health care and the promotion of health.
Thousands of British Columbians already know about naturopathic medicine, but for the uninitiated, it’s a co-ordinated approach to health care that is tailored to each patient. In addition to conventional training in health sciences and diagnostics, NDs employ a range of natural therapies and non-invasive techniques to ensure a holistic, integrated approach to health and healing. NDs address acute and chronic illnesses and emphasize disease prevention and preventative medicine. By taking the best traditional healing methods and integrating them with modern scientific principles and technology, naturopathic medicine truly represents modern integrated health care.
As president of the BCNA, I lead a professional association that represents almost 500 naturopathic doctors practicing throughout B.C. Our doctors are highly trained medical professionals. To become an ND, students must complete three years of pre-medical university training and four years of training at an accredited naturopathic college; the only one in B.C. is the Boucher Institute in New Westminster. There are BCNA members practicing throughout the province, from Victoria to Fort St. John. Naturopathic medicine is one of the fastest growing medical fields with Canada. B.C. has witnessed a 158-per-cent increase in licensed NDs since 2001.
Rising health care costs are one of the largest problems facing B.C. With a ministry of health budget of more than $17 billion, a massive portion of provincial government funds are dedicated to keeping us healthy. With a health system this large and complex costs are bound to grow. Government has been addressing these rising costs but the BCNA believes more can be done to deliver high-quality health care while keeping costs down.
It is important to note that British Columbians choose naturopathic medicine. Patients seeing NDs pay for their health-care services. With a focus on non-drug alternatives, when appropriate, NDs prescribe fewer drugs than other prescribers; this saves publically-funded PharmaCare resources. The care provided by NDs saves taxpayers money.
Given naturopathic doctors’s unique standing as primary care providers and our focus on preventative treatments and health promotion we are well positioned to offer improvements to our health care system. The BCNA has some ideas for how government can make some simple policy changes to make health care more sustainable while allowing patients access to the health care they choose.
NDs are not asking for a bigger piece of the health care budget but rather would like to have arbitrary and unnecessary barriers to care removed.
Like other health professionals, NDs have high levels of education and safety training to provide more health-care services to patients than the current rules permit. Government should assess these barriers, decide if they make sense, and trust regulators to ensure health professionals are meeting necessary qualifications and competencies.
NDs and their patients would benefit from reduced barriers to prescribe federally controlled substances. This would allow NDs to offer a complete range of health services – this would especially benefit rural patients.
Currently there are also barriers preventing NDs from gaining access to hospitals, referring patients to other medical specialists and from practicing in hospice and palliative care facilities. Removing these would allow British Columbians to enjoy the full capabilities of their chosen health-care provider while decreasing costs to the taxpayer.
Article retrieved from: The Vancouver Sun