As we mark our 50th year, it’s deeply encouraging to look at how far we have come over the past five decades and acknowledge the great changes that have taken place to improve the quality of life for people living with MS.
But it’s also the right time to re-double our efforts to drive change faster and further. There is much to be done. We must keep pumping funds into research as we get closer and closer to a cure and to treatments that improve the quality of life for people living with MS. And we must push our advocacy as we seek to ensure everyone who needs support provided through the NDIS, aged care and other services, gets that support when and where it’s needed.
A new government in Canberra provides new opportunities to progress some of our key policy priorities. We anticipate that the new government will undertake a major review of the NDIS. This will open opportunities to secure a voice for people with MS and other neurological conditions in the formal advisory structures of the National Disability Insurance Agency.
An emphasis on increasing the number of aged care nurses opens up a conversation on the urgent need to find and fund a further 50 MS nurses. And – potentially – a fresh look at the Medical Research Future Fund should ensure that areas under-served by the Fund – including research into neurological conditions – get more attention.
There are some bigger opportunities as well. The October Federal Budget will, the new Treasurer says, have a focus on ‘wellbeing’. An early indicator will be life expectancy. The Treasurer also wants a ‘conversation’ about future indicators. He would do well to look at the latest edition of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s comprehensive biennial report – Australia’s Health. The report, along with its plethora of critical health data, makes it clear the biggest health challenge facing the nation is chronic disease. While we have a national chronic disease strategy, there is precious little happening to drive it into practice.
Let’s hope the new government takes a deep policy dive into how it best comes to grip with this challenge and invests in the critical areas of prevention, early detection, effective management, and well-targeted research. This conversation is seriously overdue.