The case for prevention

The World Health Organization defines prevention as “approaches and activities aimed at reducing the likelihood that a disease or disorder will affect an individual, interrupting or slowing the progress of the disorder or reducing disability”.

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.

Successful prevention not only reduces the personal, family and community effects of chronic disease, it leads to better use of health system resources, produces a healthier workforce, and boosts economic performance and productivity.

Australia has a strong tradition of developing and investing in prevention to deliver major health gains. These gains include high rates of immunisation and seatbelt use, restrictions on driving under the influence of alcohol, and changes to sleeping positions to prevent sudden infant death.

Australia has also made progress in chronic disease, for example in tobacco and blood pressure controls, which have substantially contributed to the halving of deaths from heart disease and stroke. But we have a long way to go to help everyone, particularly high-risk and vulnerable groups, reduce their risk of chronic disease.