Chronic crisis nears

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has backed a new report from the Grattan Institute, which warns that Australia is headed for a chronic disease crisis if the government fails to act.

The report, titled ‘ACDC: Highway to Health’, highlights the increasing number of people dying from preventable diseases and urges the government to prioritise chronic disease prevention.

According to the report, nearly half of all Australians now live with chronic disease, with the burden of chronic disease increasing by 38% over the past three decades.

The report estimates that the cost of establishing a disease control body similar to those in Finland and Norway in Australia would be around $600 million.

Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, CEO of the PHAA, has urged the government to focus on prevention rather than treatment, saying that “it’s ironic that Governments are spending more and more money treating sick people, while investment in measures that stop people getting sick in the first place has remained low.”

Prof Slevin welcomed the Labor Party’s election promise to create an Australian Centre for Disease Control with chronic disease prevention as a central remit, saying that “2023 is the perfect opportunity for the Albanese Government to deliver on its election promise and create a meaningful legacy that will keep future generations healthy – if they get it right from the onset.”

Slevin also called for the new centre to prioritise prevention and the National Preventive Health Strategy from the start, as well as substantial funding and the right legislative framework.

The Grattan Institute’s report warns that the incoming tsunami of chronic disease is a significant concern for Australia’s health system, and urgent action is needed to prevent it from becoming a crisis.

The report’s authors estimate that the cost of treating preventable chronic diseases could rise to $223 billion by 2030.

The PHAA has thrown its support behind the Grattan Institute’s report, urging the government to prioritise chronic disease prevention and make it a central focus of the promised Australian Centre for Disease Control.

With chronic disease on the rise in Australia, it’s essential to act now before the country is faced with a full-blown crisis, it said.