(2011), "New Zealand - Former pop singer lobbies government to fund alternative heart therapy", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 24 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijhcqa.2011.06224bab.005Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
New Zealand - Former pop singer lobbies government to fund alternative heart therapy
Article Type: News and views From: International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Volume 24, Issue 2
Keywords: Health resource management, Heart therapy treatment, Heart disease management, Evidence based healthcare
Ray Columbus is lobbying both the Minister of Health and the Minister for Whanau Ora to fund a treatment he believes could save lives.
However, a prominent cardiologist is warning that more proof is needed and people should consult a GP before they take it up.
Over the past decade the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame inductee, 67, has had a major heart attack, a stroke and cancer. He blames much of his ill health on smoking as a youngster.
However, in the past two years, Columbus has been lobbying government ministers to fund a therapy called Enhanced External Counter Pulsation through either Whanau Ora or by shifting current health resources.
It involves placing inflatable cuffs around legs, buttocks and lower abdomen which are inflated between heart beats – the theory being that over time, the process appears to encourage the development of collateral coronary vessels. It is advertised as a non-invasive way to deal with heart disease.
Columbus believes the treatments have reversed his peripheral vascular disease where blood vessels had narrowed.
He has asked both Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia and Health Minister Tony Ryall to provide the service free of charge to New Zealanders.
The former pop singer says he does not have anything to gain from promoting the therapy, which costs $300 an hour. Patients are prescribed up to 35 visits. Columbus visits an Auckland clinic once a week for the therapy.
I’m an absolute advocate for it because it saved my life. It’s become my big thing now. Music used to be, I did it for 40 years. If I was a younger man I’d base myself in Wellington and I’d be at the Beehive lobbying every day. I just believe that a number could potentially benefit from this treatment – especially Maori, who are disadvantaged in health.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Maori.
However, the head of the National Cardiac Surgery Clinical Network, Dr Andrew Hamer, says that while there is “some evidence of benefit”, it’s not clear whether that outweighed the benefits of existing treatments.
People thinking of starting the therapy should consult their GP to make sure they were aware of any risks.
What I say to patients who are considering those things is, “Look – it’s probably not harmful, there may be benefits, but at this stage there hasn’t been major benefits shown. Do you want to pay that much money for a possible benefit?”
A spokeswoman for Ms Turia would not say whether the programme could be funded under Whanau Ora. Mr Ryall said district health boards relied on expert advice in matters such as this:
I understand the Ministry of Health sought an independent evaluation of this therapy, and that this assessment found there was not yet sufficient evidence to warrant either its recommended use or public funding.
For more information: www.nzherald.co.nz