Building a compelling case for prevention

Project title: Developing a compelling case for prevention

Start date: February 2017

Click here to read our factsheet on the compelling case project

Estimated end date: June 2018

What is the issue?

Chronic diseases are a serious and increasing problem. The associated economic burden not only affects individuals and the health system, it also adversely affects workplace productivity, economic growth and participation across the full range of domestic and workplace activities.

Fortunately, many major chronic diseases are largely preventable through changes to key risk factors: poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption and obesity.

Despite the burden of lifestyle-related chronic disease and the opportunities for prevention, only a small percentage of Australian government budgets for health care is spent on prevention.

How is the project addressing the issue?

The Prevention Centre is embarking on a flagship program of research to establish a compelling story about prevention and to determine how best to target strategies for maximum impact.

The overall objectives of the project are to:

  • Demonstrate the scale and scope of benefits from preventing the most prevalent modifiable risk factors, namely poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption and overweight and obesity
  • Develop and demonstrate the value of a range of interventions to reduce preventable chronic disease, assessing both effectiveness and value for money
  • Develop and make readily available innovative, accessible and compelling messaging about the value of reducing preventable chronic disease.

The project has three main parts:

  1. Literature review and data collation
    The project team will collate evidence about the health and economic burden of chronic disease, its preventability and the economic credentials for action. The literature review will cover both methodology and empirical results. This work will provide the ability respond to any opportunities that arise, including presentation of a strong productivity case acceptable to government Treasuries.
  2. Dynamic simulation modelling
    Dynamic simulation modelling is a tool that enables policy makers to test the likely impact of a range of possible policy solutions in computer models before implementing them in the real world. This project will develop a dynamic simulation model to demonstrate the value of prevention to reduce lifestyle-related chronic diseases, and the associated impact on the costs of health service use and the increase in health and wellbeing in Australia. The model will integrate evidence about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of prevention interventions and strategies, with expert opinion to develop the models.
  3. Communications
    The team will develop innovative and accessible resources to communicate the model outputs.

Relevance for practice

This project will draw together the evidence on the big picture about prevention and use this to help deliver a ‘what if’ tool that will allow decision makers to explore the likely impacts of different interventions to prevent chronic disease.

What are the expected outcomes?

  • A literature review and data collation on the economic benefits of achieving feasible reductions in key lifestyle-related risk factors, including a major piece on productivity impacts
  • A dynamic simulation model for chronic disease prevention in Australia that has a national focus but can be customised to support decision-making at the state/territory level
  • A suite of resources to creatively and effectively communicate the outputs of the model
  • Readiness to respond at short notice to requests for evidence about the economics of prevention.


Project leads

Project team

       Agent-based modellers
  • Alex DuMais, Prevention Centre
  • Kurt Kreuger, Prevention Centre
  • Dylan Knowles, Prevention Centre
  • Wade MacDonald, Prevention Centre
  • Annie Wang, Prevention Centre


We acknowledge the invaluable input into this project of our colleague, mentor, and above-all friend, Associate Professor Sonia Wutzke (1970–2017). The public health community is richer for having had you as one of its most passionate advocates.

This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.


NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Government Health, HCF Research Foundation, ACT Government Health, hosted by Sax Institute

Literature review and data collation
The review is underway

Dynamic simulation modelling
The second dynamic simulation modelling workshop was held on 20 February, 2018, involving 31 representatives from most Australian health departments, NGOs and advocacy organisations. The model was presented and participants prioritised interventions for inclusion. The project team is now working through the list of prioritised interventions to work out what is feasible and most useful given the remaining time frame of the project.

The first dynamic simulation modelling workshop was held in Canberra in June 2017.


  • Crosland P, McDonnell G, Davison J, Heffernan M, Ananthapavan J, Carter R, Lambert M (2018). Creating a compelling case for prevention: an integration of health economics, systems thinking and dynamic simulation modelling. Oral presentation at Fuze International Public Health Conference, Vancouver, Canada, May 2018. (funded by Deakin Health Economics)
  • Davison J. Building a Compelling Case for Prevention. PHAA Prevention Conference, Satellite Event. Simulation Modelling in Health Symposium. May 4th 2018.
  • Davison J Building a Compelling Case for Prevention [Menzies Health Policy/Uni Syd Emerging Health Policy Research Conference Sydney] July 2018
  • CCP Project Team, various presentations. Stakeholder Workshop 1: Introduction to the Compelling Case for Prevention Workshop and collaborative model building exercise. 6 June 2017
  • CCP Project Team, various presentations. Stakeholder Workshop 2: modelling update and interventions. 20 February 2018
  • CCP Project Team. ACT Stakeholder Workshop: health economics, modelling update and agent-based modelling. 24-25 July 2018