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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8313


Dear Mrs Wicks

I refer to your letter of 25 June 2018 concerning the petition to implement a national scoliosis screening process in all Australian schools.

The proposal to reintroduce screening for scoliosis into school environments involves a process of population based screening, and would need to be considered by the Standing Committee on Screening (SCoS). SCoS is a sub-committee of Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council, and includes representatives from the Department of Health, and from each of the states and territories. The SCoS provides advice on existing and emerging screening programs. The SCoS has developed a Population Based Screening Framework (the Framework) to inform the assessment of proposals for new screening programs for particular cancers and conditions. The Framework requires a strong evidence base to inform the development of screening programs.

I understand that scoliosis screening for teenage schoolgirls was once conducted in most states and territories, albeit not in a consistent and uniform manner. The practice was phased out of school environments two decades ago, due largely to concerns over its cost-effectiveness. I note that self-detection of the condition is now strongly promoted in education environments, with Scoliosis Australia providing guidance and advice to Australian schools annually, encouraging teenage girls to undertake self-detection and seek follow-up medical advice, as appropriate.

Given that self-detection for scoliosis appears to be well supported in Australian schools, and appears to be Scoliosis Australia's preferred process for identifying the condition, it is not clear that there is a strong need for the Australian Government to introduce a national scoliosis screening program.

Thank you for writing on this matter.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister of Health, Mr Hunt