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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

New report hammers home the incoming tsunami of chronic disease

Health Industry Hub | February 13, 2023 |

Australia is headed for a chronic disease nightmare unless the Federal Government steps in, says a new report released today by the Grattan Institute.

According to the AIHW, in the three years leading into the global pandemic public health spending has ranged between 1.55 and 1.77% of total health spending. In the first year of the global pandemic, with all the PCR testing and contact tracing, and the early purchases of vaccines that moved to 3.7%. Even with a public health crisis that dominated the world we still do not reach the recommended target of 5% as suggested by the National Preventive Health Strategy.  

The Grattan report, ACDC: Highway to Health, highlights that chronic conditions are the biggest killer in Australia, contributing to 9 in 10 deaths. It urges the Government to ensure chronic disease prevention is a priority for the promised Australian Centre for Disease Control (ACDC).

Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, CEO, Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), urged the Government to look beyond the here-and-now of hospital beds and treatments and address the bigger picture, before it’s too late.

He said “More Australians are getting sick with preventable disease. Today, almost one in two Australians live with chronic disease, and the burden of chronic disease has increased by 38% over the past three decades. We are facing an influx of preventable deaths and disability.

“It’s ironic that Governments are spending more and more money treating sick people, while investment in measures that stop people getting sick in the first place has remained low.

“We welcomed the Labor Party’s 2022 election promise to create an Australian Centre for Disease Control with chronic disease prevention as a central remit. The potential was simple – it was a move that would help stop people getting sick.

“2023 is the perfect opportunity for the Albanese Government to deliver on its election promise and create a meaningful legacy that will keep future generations healthy – if they get it right from the onset.

“The forthcoming centre must have prevention and the National Preventive Health Strategy as a key priority from the get-go. It’s crucial that it also has substantial funding, the right legislative framework, immunity from political and commercial interference, and the ability to build collaboration across states and territories.”

Lead author and Grattan Institute Health and Aged Care Program Director, Peter Breadon, said “Better chronic disease prevention would improve the quality of life of millions of Australians and save taxpayers billions of dollars in avoided hospital stays and other treatments.

“The Centre for Disease Control must be independent, to keep governments on track. And a new body alone won’t be enough, governments must also commit to more prevention funding. It’s a long way to the top for Australian prevention policy, but a carefully designed and independent ACDC could put us on the highway to health.”

As Australia is the only OECD country without a Centre for Disease Control, PHAA believes we need a body that can look beyond today’s demand on health services and plan for the future.

Professor Slevin stated “The Grattan Institute estimates that to fund a similar disease control body to those in Finland and Norway would cost up to A$600 million in Australia, and that’s the sort of figure public health experts will be anticipating in the May 2023 Federal Budget.

“The early budget allocations will need to be in the hundreds, not tens, of millions of dollars.”

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