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Building a compelling case for prevention

Project title: Developing a compelling case for prevention

Start date: February 2017

Estimated end date: June 2018

What is the issue?

Chronic diseases are a serious and increasing problem. The associated economic burden not only affects individuals and the health system, it also adversely affects workplace productivity, economic growth and participation across the full range of domestic and workplace activities.

Fortunately, many major chronic diseases are largely preventable through changes to key risk factors: poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption and obesity.

Despite the burden of lifestyle-related chronic disease and the opportunities for prevention, only a small percentage of Australian government budgets for health care is spent on prevention.

How is the project addressing the issue?

The Prevention Centre is embarking on a flagship program of research to establish a compelling story about prevention and to determine how best to target strategies for maximum impact.

The overall objectives of the project are to:

  • Demonstrate the scale and scope of benefits from preventing the most prevalent modifiable risk factors, namely poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption and overweight and obesity
  • Develop and demonstrate the value of a range of interventions to reduce preventable chronic disease, assessing both effectiveness and value for money
  • Develop and make readily available innovative, accessible and compelling messaging about the value of reducing preventable chronic disease.

The project has three main parts:

  1. Literature review and data collation
    The project team will collate evidence about the health and economic burden of chronic disease, its preventability and the economic credentials for action. The literature review will cover both methodology and empirical results. This work will provide the ability respond to any opportunities that arise, including presentation of a strong productivity case acceptable to government Treasuries.
  2. Dynamic simulation modelling
    Dynamic simulation modelling is a tool that enables policy makers to test the likely impact of a range of possible policy solutions in computer models before implementing them in the real world. This project will develop a dynamic simulation model to demonstrate the value of prevention to reduce lifestyle-related chronic diseases, and the associated impact on the costs of health service use and the increase in health and wellbeing in Australia. The model will integrate evidence about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of prevention interventions and strategies, with expert opinion to develop the models.
  3. Communications
    The team will develop innovative and accessible resources to communicate the model outputs.

What are the expected outcomes?

  • A literature review and data collation on the economic benefits of achieving feasible reductions in key lifestyle-related risk factors, including a major piece on productivity impacts
  • A dynamic simulation model for chronic disease prevention in Australia that has a national focus but can be customised to support decision-making at the state/territory level
  • A suite of resources to creatively and effectively communicate the outputs of the model
  • Readiness to respond at short notice to requests for evidence about the economics of prevention.

Project leads

Project team

This project will draw together the evidence on the big picture about prevention and use this evidence to help deliver a ‘what if’ tool that will allow decision makers to explore the likely impacts of different interventions to prevent chronic disease.

Literature review and data collation
Dr Paul Crosland, a Senior Research Fellow in Health Economics at Deakin University, has been appointed to lead this component of the work and to provide economic input across parts 2 and 3 of the project. Dr Crosland comes from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK where he was involved in similar appraisal work with a focus on generating clinical guidelines.

Dynamic simulation modelling
The first dynamic simulation modelling workshop was held in Canberra in June 2017.

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