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Thinking ahead: how we will make the case for prevention

The recent Grattan Institute report advocating a 40 cent tax per 100 grams of sugar in soft drinks was met with an immediate, coordinated response by the industry. The next day, eight industry groups issued a press release arguing against the effectiveness of a tax. National Party politicians, too, were quick to take a stand against the tax over the next few days.

It made me wonder how we, the prevention community, should respond. Is it enough to continue to provide the scientific evidence on which we hope policy makers will base their decisions? Or is there more we can do to make a compelling case for prevention – to create a demand and momentum that will start to see real reductions in the risk factors for chronic disease?

The Prevention Centre is now half way through its five-year grant. We are starting to finalise some of our projects and to publish new data. As we progress, we will be looking at how we can pull our findings together into a coherent suite of products that will support an effective, efficient and equitable system for the prevention of lifestyle-related chronic disease.

We are starting to find synergies across our 37 projects and 150 collaborators. We are also keen to transfer knowledge in a way that is most practical and useful for policy and practice, and would welcome your input into how you would like us to do this.

During 2016, our work and reach have grown considerably. We have now allocated funding to all of our projects, with two final projects due to be launched next year. One will look at how to make a compelling case for prevention, and the other the role of prevention in PHNs. We’ve published more than 40 journal papers, with at least another 100 more to come, and we’ve developed a number of practical resources for policy makers.

Prevention Tracker has expanded and is now active in three locations: Glenorchy in Tasmania, Albany in WA and Broken Hill in NSW. We are nearing capacity with our dynamic simulation modelling work, which has generated a considerable degree of interest among our partners in several jurisdictions.

Several of our projects have been completed, resulting in the development and validation of national liveability indicators, new data on the affordability of healthy versus current less healthy Australian diets, and recommendations from a comparison of the implementation of childhood obesity programs in different states.

We have also been very active in building capacity within the prevention community, with a thriving network of more than 50 early- to mid-career researchers, regular public events, seminars and training workshops, as well as a new series of webinars on systems approaches to prevention.

We’re now looking to our future and are awaiting the outcome of the current NHMRC funding review. We are confident that there is an appetite for prevention, both from the public (as shown in the preliminary results of our Australian Perceptions of Prevention Survey), and from the highest levels of government.

Whatever direction the Prevention Centre takes over the next two years, we will be aiming for greater influence so we can impart the message of the value of prevention to a greater number of key influencers. We want more people to hear and understand the evidence base that’s available from research, and to create an environment where prevention is as important as cure.

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