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A need for sustainable, system-wide change

Associate Professor Sonia Wuztke

By Associate Professor Sonia Wutzke

The paper

Wutzke S, Morrice E, Benton M, Wilson A.What will it take to improve prevention of chronic diseases in Australia? A case study of two national approaches. Aust Health Rev 2016; doi: 10.1071/AH16002

The project

Prevention Landscape – The status of prevention programs in Australian states and territories following two national prevention initiatives

Why we studied this topic

The Prevention Landscape project involved interviews with 29 senior policy makers and thought leaders in prevention about two recent national approaches to chronic disease prevention: the 2005 National Chronic Diseases Strategy and the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (NPAPH). We are hoping the findings will inform the next national chronic disease strategy for Australia, as well as investments in population preventive health initiatives more broadly.

What this paper adds

This paper shows that the 2005 strategy and the NPAPH were seen to have overlapping strengths and weaknesses. The 2005 Strategy was viewed as necessary and useful for national coordination, setting a common agenda and serving as an anchor to align jurisdictional priorities and action. However, without funding or other infrastructure commitments or implementation plans, any expectations as to what could be meaningfully achieved were limited. In contrast, although jurisdictions welcomed the NPAPH, its associated funding and the opportunity to tailor strategy to their unique needs and populations, there were calls for greater national leadership as well as guidance on the evidence base to inform decision making.

What was surprising?

The key informant discussions highlighted several key aspects of successful national action, such as strong Australian Government leadership and coordination, setting a common agenda, national alignment on priorities and actions, agreement on implementation strategies, partnerships within and across governments and with other sectors to effect change, and funding and infrastructure to support implementation.

What it means for policy

Despite some important advances, chronic diseases remain Australia’s greatest health challenge. As a result of our findings, we believe the new National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions is more likely to achieve meaningful change in chronic disease prevention if it has a greater focus on generating more sustainable, system-wide change.