Australia in 2030 – A bold and progressive path to better health

An ambitious vision launched this week for a path to ‘better health for all’ is inspiring the Australian health and research sectors to take advantage of the momentum generated by COVID-19 and the new spotlight on health promotion and prevention.

Prevention Centre funding partner VicHealth has partnered with the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in a thought-provoking supplement ‘Australia in 2030: What is our path to health for all?’. The supplement features more than 30 of Australia’s leading experts in public health and prevention and sets out a roadmap for a more sustainable, healthy and equitable Australia by 2030.

VicHealth CEO, Dr Sandro Demaio

At yesterday’s launch, VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said the last 12 months have seen governments across the world making “bold and progressive policy moves”. He said prevention needs this momentum as we seize this window of opportunity to create a post-pandemic pathway to health.

Prevention Centre investigators featured in the supplement include Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti, who contributed to the chapter on physical determinants of health, and Professor Sharon Friel, who contributed to the chapters on health equity and governance.

Professor Giles-Corti spoke at the launch about the growing appreciation of green spaces, active transportation and public open spaces. “We’ve seen the groundswell in support for these opportunities reinforced by COVID-19,” she said.

Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti

In an MJA podcast earlier this week, Dr Demaio explained that the social determinants of health, which have not been getting the political attention they deserve, have now become unavoidable. This has generated an immense focus and interest in health, and the value of public health, population health, and particularly prevention.

The COVID-19 global pandemic helped put the spotlight on prevention and the growing trust in scientists and health leaders. There is now a greater appreciation of the need for investment in public health and in keeping people healthy for longer. For the general public, the risks of chronic illness such as obesity or diabetes suddenly came into greater focus as it became an increased risk factor for COVID complications.

The pandemic also put an unprecedented focus on the cultural determinants of health and we now have a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to create true change, according to Dr Demaio. “We have an opportunity to build back a healthcare system and prevention system for a society that is stronger, healthier, more equitable and sustainable,” he said.

The MJA supplement details how we can build these systems in seven chapters on a wide range of health determinants and issues. The contributing authors establish how evidence-based action on complex determinants of health can improve the health and wellbeing for current and future generations. Topics include:

  • How Australia improved health equity through action on the social determinants of health
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander connection to culture: building stronger individual and collective wellbeing
  • Physical determinants of health: healthy, liveable and sustainable communities
  • Health promotion in the Anthropocene: the ecological determinants of health
  • Disrupting the commercial determinants of health
  • Digital determinants of health: the digital transformation
  • Governance for health and equity: a vision for our future.

Dr Demaio believes the pandemic prioritised health equity and health systems that shifted focus to comprehensive primary health care, prevention and promotion. “It really hit home for many that ‘no-one is safe until everyone is safe’ and this has brought a new understanding and appreciation of public health, population health and the importance of prevention,” he said. “We need to hold onto the insights and learnings of the pandemic as they have been captured in the supplement.”

To learn more about these insights and learnings you can read the supplement here.

Prevention Centre Investigators involved in the MJA supplement

  • Professor Sharon Friel (Chapter 1: How Australia improved health equity on the social determinants of health)
  • Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti (Chapter 3: Physical determinants of health: healthy, liveable and sustainable communities)
  • Dr Lucy Gunn (Chapter 3: Physical determinants of health: healthy, liveable and sustainable communities)
  • Dr Kathryn Backholer (Chapter 5: Disrupting the commercial determinants of health & Chapter 6: Digital determinants of health: the digital transformation
  • Professor Anna Peeters (Chapter 6: Digital determinants of health: the digital transformation)