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Perceptions of prevention: what does the Australian community think?


Project title: AUSPOPS – AUStralian Perceptions of Prevention Survey

Start date: October 2015

Estimated end date: June 2018

What is the issue?

There is debate currently about what role the government should play in regulation for preventive health. Some commentators view government regulation and health promotion activities as constituting a ‘nanny state’ that is overly controlling of individual choice and freedom regarding their health. Determining the right balance of government intervention and personal choice is a challenging issue for complex problems such as the prevention of lifestyle-related chronic disease. Therefore, gaining a better understanding of community awareness, attitudes and values regarding chronic disease prevention policies and programs is key to optimising communication and formulation of public health action.

How is the project addressing the issue?

In Australia, there has been little research conducted to better understand community knowledge and attitudes regarding people’s understanding of prevention and of policies and programs to improve lifestyle-related chronic disease. In 2016 we conducted a national population survey to quantify community attitudes and values towards government intervention and development of policies and programs for the prevention of lifestyle-related chronic diseases (AUSPOPS). Formative research using focus groups were conducted to inform survey development.

What are the expected outcomes?

The research is expected to show how the Australian community views government intervention for the purpose of health prevention, and how these perceptions may vary over demographic and health-related factors.

Project lead

Professor Adrian Bauman, University of Sydney

Project team

Dr Anne Grunseit, University of Sydney

Dr Melanie Crane, University of Sydney

Dr Samantha Rowbotham, Prevention Centre

 

Decisions regarding various policy options for prevention may gain or lose momentum depending on policymakers’ perceptions of how the policy may be received by the general public.

At present there seems to be a visible anti-intervention narrative which frames health promotion efforts by government as paternalistic and unwanted interference with citizens’ private lives. Health promotion advocates argue that this discourages government from committing to the more effective systemic changes needed to effect population level change.

Exploring and measuring community perceptions of prevention through primary research will assist policymakers gain a more direct indicator of community attitudes and the logic which underpins them.

  • Six focus groups were completed in April 2016
  • The first survey was completed in July 2016
  • Qualitative data have been re-analysed
  • Quantitative data have been cleaned and preliminary analyses undertaken
  • A mixed methods paper examining perceptions of the role of government in prevention has been drafted

Preliminary findings were presented at the World Public Congress on Public Health, Melbourne, April 2017