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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Governments urged to address critical red flags

Health Industry Hub | July 3, 2024 |

Australians are spending more years in ill health despite having one of the longest life expectancies in the world.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) latest report, Australians today can expect to live between 81.2 years and 85.3 years, reflecting an increase of about 40% since the start of the 20th century. This positions Australia fourth among OECD countries.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson commented, “Australians are living longer, but the burdens of chronic disease and mental illness are on the rise. This is placing more pressure and demand on the health system.”

The AIHW’s report also noted a significant rise in the average number of yearly GP visits per person, from 3.8 in 1984 to 6.8 in 2022.

Alongside this, there has been a marked increase in wait times for planned surgeries. In 2022–23, 50% of patients were admitted for planned surgery within 49 days of being placed on the waiting list, up from 40 days in the previous year, and 9.6% of patients waited longer than 365 days, up from 6.3%.

“While there are many positives to take from this report, there are also red flags and warnings that governments must pay attention to,” Professor Robson emphasised.

He stressed, “We must treat health spending as an investment, rather than a cost. Placing a greater focus on preventive health, mental health and increasing support for general practice would help Australians live healthier lives and would save taxpayer dollars in the long run by reducing pressure on the health system.”

Professor Robson also called for immediate action from all governments to address the public hospital logjam crisis.

“It is unacceptable to have such long wait times in emergency departments and for surgery,” he added.

“The biggest wake-up call of all” is “the data around mental health, and we know mental health affects people so profoundly,” he noted. It affects the people around them. It means that it’s difficult for you to work, to enjoy life, to go on holidays, to care for others, to run your relationships, and it also makes people turn to substances, to alcohol, to other things, to help bear that burden.

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