An expert steering committee has been appointed to guide development of a new 10-year national preventive health strategy, about five years after the Coalition government dismantled the previous arrangements.
The committee includes experts from public health, research and health promotion sectors and is chaired by Health Department deputy secretary Dr Lisa Studdert, who is also responsible for population health, sport, and the aged care royal commission taskforce.
In 2014, the government abolished the Australian National Preventive Health Agency in the name of “smaller and more rational government” and ceased providing funding for related initiatives in the states and territories via a national partnership agreement.
The new preventive strategy will revive the Commonwealth’s role in early intervention and the provision of better information on how to be healthier, and is intended to complement other national frameworks.
Consultation with broader health experts, key stakeholders and consumers will begin soon, so they have the opportunity to voice their opinions on the strategy’s development. The committee will hold its first roundtable on September 26.
Health Minister Greg Hunt discussed the strategy last month at the National Press Club in Canberra, addressing the four key areas: cancer and chronic disease population screening; immunisation; nutrition and obesity; and public education and research.
“Shortly after the election, I asked the extraordinary Professor Brendan Murphy if he could identify the most prospective areas for new national screening tests in Australia. He came back with the advice that the number one potential option is targeted lung cancer screening, to catch people early, and because there’s been so much stigma, it’s about breaking down that stigma,” Hunt said.
“As a consequence, I’ve approached Cancer Australia, now led by Professor Dorothy Keefe and we’ve talked about it and Cancer Australia will lead a review of the potential for targeted lung cancer screening to be the next national cancer screening program. The prospects are good and if they believe that it is desirable and achievable, then we will develop a plan and we will implement it, and it has the potential to save thousands of lives over the coming decades.
“Beyond that, in terms of immunisation, we will continue and extend the “Get the facts” immunisation program and target it at local communities where there may be particular results which are not near national levels, and we will aim to and seek to surpass the 95% goal and to have more Australians vaccinated, because vaccination ultimately, genuinely, saves lives and protects lives.
“And then we turn to education and smoking. Today, I want to announce that the government will set a new target of reducing smoking rates below 10% by 2025 … We’ve already committed $20 million to the education campaign but there is more to be done and we will develop that with the health and medical and preventive health sectors.
“And the last of the elements of the preventative health plan is what we will be doing in terms of obesity and working together with the states and territories on a national obesity plan which we hope will get more people moving earlier and in a way that’s age and ability-appropriate. And also people understanding the consequences of the choices that they make in terms of their food.”
The expert steering committee includes representatives from:
- Public Health Association of Australia
- Australian Health Policy Collaboration
- Co-Chairs of Canberra Health Summit (Collaboration of Chronic Disease Groups)
- Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs
- Consumers Health Forum of Australia
- Australian Medical Association
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
- National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
- Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance
- Health & Biosecurity, CSIRO
- Healthy Male Australia
- Jean Hailes
- Cancer Australia
- SAX Institute
- The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre
- National Rural Health Alliance
- Cancer Council Australia
- Australian National University National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health
- National Drug Research Institute
- Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation
- Allied Health Professionals Australia
- Australian Physiotherapy Association
- Health Issues Centre