Preventing and controlling chronic disease helps people to live longer and healthier lives.
There is high-quality evidence that prevention of chronic disease is effective and cost-effective and that these impacts can be influential at a population level.
In this section of our website, you will find definitions of prevention and chronic disease, and examples of how chronic disease can be prevented. You can also find out more about the:
The challenge of preventing complex chronic health problems
The causes of chronic diseases are complex and varied. Many interconnected factors contribute to the decisions people make about their behaviour, including their background, their environment and their ability to make healthy choices.
This complexity means we need a new way to tackle the problem of chronic disease. To effectively prevent complex chronic health problems in the long term, we need to recognise the role of social, economic and environmental factors and how each of these interacts. This requires a systems approach.
A system is a set of interrelated parts that form a whole. A system is not the sum of its parts, but rather the product of their interaction.
Systems thinking is a way to make sense of a complex system, by exploring the relationships, boundaries and perspectives in a system. It can help us approach otherwise unmanageable problems by providing:
Systems approaches are the specific tools and methods we can use to better understand the system and the complex problems within it. They are particularly useful because they do not require us to know everything about the system before engaging in problem-solving activities.
To change health behaviour, we need a range of governments, organisations and individuals to work together in a coordinated way to attack the problem from many different angles and in dynamic, flexible ways. Applying systems thinking and systems approaches enables us to create an environment that supports people to make better health decisions and avoid chronic disease.
Find out how to use systems thinking and the Prevention Centre’s approach to systems thinking.
More about prevention
What is prevention?Prevention – also called preventive health – is defined as any action taken to keep people healthy and well, and prevent or avoid risk of poor health, illness, injury and early death.
What are the benefits of prevention for health and wellbeing?Preventing chronic disease helps people to lead their best possible life. It avoids strain on the health budget and communities.
What is the burden of chronic disease?Burden of disease measures the impact of living with disease and injury and premature death. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in Australia.
What are the economic benefits of prevention?Chronic diseases are associated with significant costs to the health system and broader societal costs. Prevention lowers healthcare costs and costs to the economy.
What are the co-benefits of prevention?Addressing the root causes of chronic disease can sometimes also benefit other sectors. A co-benefits approach can help governments prioritise action.