Health stakeholders have welcomed Labor’s prevention policy announced over the weekend.
The policy focuses on preventing chronic disease by targeting poor nutrition, physical inactivity, tobacco and harmful alcohol use, says Public Health Association of Australia president Professor Heather Yeatman.
“This policy will have a major impact in reducing chronic diseases which are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia. Labor has listened and is implementing a policy which shows a real understanding that prevention must be a top priority for our health system,” says Prof Yeatman.
The Healthy Communities and Chronic Disease Prevention plan includes a five-point strategy to prevent chronic disease, with a special focus on communities.
“This commitment from Labor is a significant step in improving the overall health of Australians and preventing chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes,” says Professor Yeatman.
“Investing significant funds and resources into nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol will have a major impact on reducing chronic disease in the community. Labor is demonstrating the national leadership and commitment that is required to secure Australia’s future health.
“We especially welcome Labor’s ‘Healthy Communities’ plan to target communities who need most support to achieve the health opportunities that others take for granted.
“PHAA also welcomes the $20 million investment to revive the successful National Tobacco Campaign together with additional action to target vulnerable groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with poor mental health and people living in rural and remote areas.”
She says PHAA looks forward to a similar commitment from other parties and noted that Senator Nick Xenophon commented to the Sydney Morning Herald his list of demands with his fourth demand to change the emphasis on health care towards more preventative measures,.
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda, says the Opposition’s plan would also significantly reduce the number of cancers associated with obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excess alcohol consumption.
“On our analysis, the Opposition’s commitment to scale up Australia’s National Tobacco Campaign with $20 million will prevent 55,000 premature Australian deaths, most from cancer, by complementing the tobacco tax increases with hard-hitting media campaigns.
“The additional $30 million targeting high-risk and disadvantaged groups, such as Indigenous Australians and people with mental illness, has the potential to deliver even greater benefits.
“The 323,000 life years saved is particularly significant, as it represents the loss of healthy years of life caused by premature smoking-related deaths.”
Prof Aranda says the Opposition’s commitment to implement national strategies for nutrition, physical activity and alcohol should also be commended.
The Consumers Health Forum also applauded Labor policy over the weekend.
Labor’s promise to retain the bulk billing incentive for pathology and diagnostic imaging will reduce the risk of patients foregoing vital tests and scans because they can’t afford them, the CHF says.
“Labor’s health policy is protecting a central principle of Medicare—that is universal access to medical attention based on need rather than ability to pay,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells says.
Meanwhile, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association released a scorecard evaluating the Coalition, Labor and Greens policies on several issues including health.
The Coalition does not fare well under this evaluation.