Falling through the cracks: the hidden economic burden of chronic illness and disability on Australian households

Stephen Jan, Beverley M Essue and Stephen R Leeder
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11105
Published online: 16 January 2012

Major reform plus targeted strategies have the potential to provide relief

Underpinning recent global health initiatives, including the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations’ High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, has been recognition of the links between illness, disability, poverty and economic development. In Australia, the economic effects of illness, particularly long-term illness and disability, are often overlooked or examined exclusively in terms of the consequences for government budgets and the economy. While such analyses may be effective in alerting policymakers to the scale of particular epidemics, they provide little indication of the direct impact of illness on the wellbeing of those in the community. To do this, the unit of analysis needs to be shifted from the macro economy to individuals and households.

  • Stephen Jan1
  • Beverley M Essue1
  • Stephen R Leeder2

  • 1 The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.



This article has been written as part of the Serious and Continuing Illness Policy and Practice Study, a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)-funded program (402793) conducted at the Australian National University and University of Sydney and administered by the Menzies Centre for Health Policy. Stephen Jan is supported by an NHMRC Career Development Award (457117).

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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