Australia: the healthiest country by 2020
National Preventative Health Strategy - Overview
The purpose of the Strategy; What is in the Strategy?
The purpose of the Strategy
The Strategy is needed to prevent hundreds of thousands of Australians dying prematurely, or falling ill and suffering, between now and 2020. It is needed to minimise the impending overload of the health and hospital systems, and to increase the productivity, and therefore the competitiveness, of Australia’s workforce. It will assist in avoiding the health and social costs that would otherwise be incurred if we do little or nothing.
We need this Strategy because Australia has a national commitment to fairness. Currently, good and bad health is unevenly distributed – there is a social gradient, which means that those Australians with less money, less education and insecure working conditions are much more likely to get sick and die earlier. This inequity is extremely acute for Indigenous Australians.
This Strategy is important. It seeks to do. It is evidence-based, or where the evidence is yet to be developed, it is evidence-building. It seeks to constructively influence markets, develop and implement effective policies, enhance national preventative health infrastructure, and overcome the limited implementation of past and existing national strategies.
What is in the Strategy?
The Strategy is for all Australians, not just governments. It is presented as a comprehensive approach with seven strategic directions:
- Shared responsibility – developing strategic partnerships – at all levels of government, industry, business, unions, the non-government sector, research institutions and communities
- Act early and throughout life – working with individuals, families and communities
- Engage communities – act and engage with people where they live, work and play; at home, in schools, workplaces and the community. Inform, enable and support people to make healthy choices
- Influence markets and develop coherent policies – for example, through taxation, responsive regulation, and through coherent and connected policies
- Reduce inequity through targeting disadvantage – especially low socioeconomic status (SES) population groups
- Indigenous Australians – contribute to ‘Close the Gap’
- Refocus primary healthcare towards prevention
Each of these strategic directions requires strong infrastructure to support action, coordinated and driven via the National Prevention Agency working with a range of national, state and local partners.
These directions are reflected in each of the strategies for obesity, tobacco and alcohol, complemented by the support of national preventative health infrastructure. (See The Strategy – summarised, prioritised and phased
later in this Overview for a summary of the key actions, prioritised over time).
The Strategy sets a number of ambitious targets:
- Halt and reverse the rise in overweight and obesity
- Reduce the prevalence of daily smoking to 10% or less
- Reduce the proportion of Australians who drink at short-term risky/high-risk levels to 14%, and the proportion of Australians who drink at long-term risky/high-risk levels to 7%
- Contribute to the ‘Close the Gap’ target for Indigenous people, reducing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people
These targets have been aligned with a further set of interim targets set by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).