The Strategy was officially launched by the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt, at an online webinar hosted by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) with more than 1,200 people registered. The Minister noted that chronic conditions are the leading cause of ill health and death in Australia, accounting for 87% of deaths. He said 38% of the chronic disease burden could be prevented through a reduction in modifiable risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity and the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
“We can really show how we have prevented a huge amount of disease and now have a greater global life expectancy at over 20 years of age, largely attributable to prevention,” Minister Hunt said.
The 10-year Strategy is designed to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians at all stages of life through early intervention, better information, targeting risk factors and addressing the broader causes of poor health and wellbeing with four broad goals:
- all Australians have the best start in life
- all Australians live in good health and wellbeing for as long as possible
- health equity is achieved for priority populations
- investment in preventive health is increased.
The Strategy has seven focus areas requiring critical action to reduce the risks of poor health and disease: nutrition, physical activity, tobacco, immunisation, cancer screening, alcohol and other drug use, and mental health. It will encourage preventive health action with a focus on raising the health of priority populations to an equitable level.
Prevention Centre Co-Director Professor Andrew Wilson also spoke at the launch, acknowledging it was great to see recognition of the complexity that is involved in prevention.
“Too often [prevention] is reduced to lists of simplistic interventions without acknowledging the interplay of social, socio-economic, environmental, psychological and biological factors,” he said. “This complexity, this multi-layered nature of prevention, is recognised and the environmental, structural, economic, cultural and biomedical factors.”
The value of prevention is clearly outlined in the Strategy, including how the benefits of prevention extend beyond reducing chronic conditions and living longer, healthier lives. It notes prevention generates benefits not only by reducing pressure on the health budget, but by also increasing workforce participation and productivity, and improving the health of future generations.
Professor Wilson pointed to the Key Learnings section of the Strategy as a great summary of what is necessary for effective prevention, highlighting the need for strong collaborations and partnerships.
“Success comes from sustained and coordinated action,” he said. “In this strategy, I think we have the overall framework that enables us to take a comprehensive approach to promoting and maintaining the health of all Australians.
“We have a fantastic capacity in prevention research in Australia. It’s been a privilege of being part of the Prevention Centre that has allowed me to see deeply into the range and quality of research across Australia. We are bringing together the prevention research community and promoting collaboration and coordinated approaches. We can be a lot more when we work together.”
A Blueprint for Action is now being developed to guide implementation of the Strategy and the Prevention Centre is looking forward to being involved in this work over the coming years.
The National Preventive Health Strategy is online here.