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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Government urged not to underestimate critical funding for Centre for Disease Control

Health Industry Hub | March 13, 2023 |

Pharma News: Members of the federal Cabinet and Treasury officials who are finalising the 2023-24 May Budget have been urged to allocated sufficient funding for the forthcoming Australian Centre for Disease Control (ACDC).

The call from the Public Health community comes in the wake of the consultation report summarising responses from 144 written submissions received from stakeholders across a range of advocacy groups, committees, industry representatives, medical colleges, NGOs, peak bodies, consultancies, research institutions/groups, unions and universities.

Labor promised the ACDC before the 2022 election and said it is due to begin operating in early 2024. The Centre’s responsibilities will include ongoing pandemic preparedness and future infectious disease outbreaks, as well as preventing chronic diseases.

“There’s a lot of goodwill toward the ACDC by people working in public health and wider health communities,” said retired former Chief Health Officer for NSW, Dr George Rubin.

“We all want it to succeed to ensure fewer people get sick, and there’s less demand on our troubled health care system. We’re speaking up because we want the Centre to have its best possible chance of life, and it is too important an entity to have its funding trimmed before it’s been able to work.”

Infectious disease outbreaks like COVID-19 are not over, and there will be new outbreaks and health inequity growing. Chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes are growing, and the cost of healthcare is expanding unsustainably. More than 35% of that burden is preventable. The ACDC needs to put the brakes on the accelerators of ill health.

Dr Rubin added “It needs to have a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, not tens. Its successes will be in results over the long term, such as in increased longevity, and a higher quality of life and wellbeing.”

The October 2022 Budget, the Albanese Government’s first, contained a modest line for the ACDC. They committed $3.2 million, largely to facilitate the consultation and planning process.

The May 2023 Budget allocation will strongly indicate their level of commitment to the new agency. Recognising that the agency will only commence halfway through the 2023/24 financial year, that initial year’s allocation is perhaps less crucial. But the Budget will also allocate estimates for 2024/25 and 2025/26.

There will also be some internal reallocation. Funds otherwise committed in the Department of Health and Aged Care budget will be reallocated to the ACDC as some existing Departmental functions are transferred. It has already been foreshadowed that the National Medical Stockpile will be transferred into the ACDC. This is a reasonable responsibility for the ACDC to hold and its budget allocation is believed to be $50M+ per year.

According to Public Health Association of Australia, Australian Health Promotion Association and Australasian Epidemiological Association, the ACDC will reduce duplication of effort across nine governments. It will unite the best expertise to advise on the best course of action to prevent disease, and to respond to outbreaks. It will lead implementation of the National Preventive Health Strategy, strengthen the nation’s biosecurity settings and capacity to respond to bioterrorism. It is also likely to incorporate the roles of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia and Public Health Laboratory Network as part of its scope to plan for and, where necessary, lead response to infectious disease outbreaks.

The Centre will contribute to healthcare reform by reducing the demand for costly acute care. To be successful the ACDC must have an effective system to work constructively across jurisdictions, ideally by having staff embedded in all states and territories, and effective cooperative arrangements with relevant federal government entities.

Initial funds must come from the Commonwealth. However, cost sharing arrangements with states and territories should be explored to ensure the level of government that is “at the coal face” has “skin in the game” and “a seat at the table”.

The essential first step is to ensure an adequate funding commitment to building the ACDC in the May 2023 budget. The second key deadline is the creation of legislation to establish the agency, which should be finalised and passed by December 2023.

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