Wednesday, 16 February 2022
Australia has been termed the allergy capital of the world. One in 10 infants and one in 20 adults have food allergies. Each of these Australians lives with the ever-present risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis. At each snack or meal they need to literally walk the allergy tightrope. This is an issue close to home in Higgins because research has shown that Melbourne has the highest rates of food allergy anywhere in the world. If we extrapolate national data, there are about 72 hospital admissions just in Higgins each year from allergic reactions. That is why the Walking the allergy tightrope report with its 24 recommendations, which was produced by the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, is so important. As a member of this committee, I was proud to contribute to such a report on an issue I worked with in my professional life.
As a young paediatrician I had rooms in Higgins and as a professor of paediatrics my team was the first to confirm the rising allergy epidemic in Australia. That's why I'm fighting for a $28 million investment in the next budget to enable the creation of a national allergy council and a national allergy centre of excellence. Funding of the NAC and NACE would increase access to quality care as well as providing further education, translation, prevention and treatment of allergy and anaphylaxis. This funding could potentially reverse the deadly trend of increased allergies and anaphylaxis in Australia. It would provide relief and hope to literally thousands of Australians and their families.
This investment would include $7.7 million towards a shared care program to cut wait times to see a specialist by at least 50 per cent. Importantly, it would also improve access to care, especially for Australians in regional and rural areas—and I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I have seen people wait for over two years to see me as an allergy specialist, and it's so hard for rural patients. It would allow our healthcare professionals to be connected with access to education and resources and to more efficiently support patients. An additional $4.9 million would be allocated to education and training for allergy researchers to answer the most probing questions in this important field.
I'm proud to be a strong advocate for the National Allergy Strategy, and this funding would surely be a step in the right direction. My thanks to: Preeti Joshi and Maria Said, the co-chairs of the National Allergy Strategy; Jill Smith, CEO of ASCIA; Sandra Vale, NAS manager; and Kirsten Perrett, the director of the Centre for Food and Allergy Research. Together you are making a massive difference for those children with food allergy, and I thank you.