Page 3985 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 29 November 2022

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to complex problems, their passion for the arts, sports or academia, their entrepreneurial skills or their interests as parents, friends and carers. There are people who have autoimmune disorders who are also carers for others in their lives. The life experiences and skills that a person develops as a result of their chronic health condition are an important part of who that person is.

I am very much in support of this motion, and I look forward to supporting the ACT government and community sector work to raise awareness of autoimmune disorders.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (5.03): I rise to speak in support of Ms Orr’s motion and applaud her for shining a light on the experience of so many in our community. I thank Dr Paterson for moving the motion on Ms Orr’s behalf, in her absence. Autoimmune disease, as others have said, happens when the body’s natural defence systems cannot tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells. Autoimmune diseases, as Dr Paterson said, affect around five per cent of people and are an important health issue across Australia.

There are around 80 well-defined autoimmune diseases, ranging from extremely rare to relatively common. The more common autoimmune disorders are thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease. Most people will be aware of these more common autoimmune diseases but may not be aware of the gendered impact, which both Dr Paterson and Minister Davidson have talked about. Autoimmune diseases are more common in women than men and these differences are increasing. For example, multiple sclerosis was about twice as common in women than men in the 1990s and today that proportion is almost three to one. For some types of autoimmune diseases women are up to 16 times more susceptible than men.

Many autoimmune diseases are rare diseases. The increasing precision of genomic technologies means that new diseases are being discovered regularly. While these individual diseases may be rare, the total number of Australians living with a rare disease is not. Our health system has been driving improvements to ensure that people that potentially have an autoimmune disorder are able to receive the best care possible as quickly as possible. However, this is a complex area, with most disorders requiring specialist diagnosis.

That is why the government, our health experts and Capital Health Network have ensured that medical professionals and those registered with HealthPathways can assess the list of completed localised autoimmune relevant condition pathways on the HealthPathways website, including for psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, myelitis, inflammatory bowel disease plus a page on medications, ankylosing spondylitis, and thyroid disease in pregnancy. This collaboration ensures that general practitioners are supported to better care for patients and ensure that, where available, appropriate managements and treatments are implemented.

We know that, over the past five to 10 years, various treatments have become and continue to become available for all autoimmune disease, with medications to minimise harm to Canberrans needing diagnosis treatment and care. I am pleased that our public health system is continuing to provide support for those in the community who need it.

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