Australia’s health: being accountable for prevention

A Rob Moodie, Penny Tolhurst and Jane E Martin
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (6): 223-225. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00968

Stronger policy and a comprehensive approach to prevention is a good investment

The global action plan of the World Health Organization (WHO) for preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases1 aims to substantially reduce the burden of premature mortality caused by cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease by 2025, through action on nine targets measured by 25 indicators of performance.1 As a member state of the WHO, Australia is committed to the global action plan. However, we argue that the Australian government devotes insufficient attention to health policy, funding and program implementation for effective prevention. In this article, we review Australia’s progress against national non-communicable disease (NCD) targets set in 2009, and suggest that a more comprehensive approach is required.

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  • A Rob Moodie1,2
  • Penny Tolhurst3
  • Jane E Martin4

  • 1 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi
  • 3 Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC
  • 4 Obesity Policy Coalition, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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access_time 04:32, 27 April 2016
Ho Ling Elaine KO

Australia needs a stronger policy and comprehensive approaches to prevent and control modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases(1).
Despite the prevalence of certain risk factors declining in Australia(1), Indigenous populations have had reduced access to non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention(2). Given the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains unacceptably wide (2), there is a compelling need for the Government to allocate resources to narrow this gap for not only the Indigenous Australians but for the welfare of Australia(3).
To reduce the burden of NCDs, interventions need to be based on the Indigenous communities’ unique strengths(3). It is vital to respect perceptions and experiences, and incorporate these into empowering strengths to address NCDs(4), because the cultural knowledge of health is viewed as a rich resource to implement culturally appropriate programs(5). Moreover, active participation of Indigenous communities in the responses to NCDs should be encouraged, as a sense of self-determination can be developed, which in turn fosters better working relationships and health outcomes(4).
Furthermore, good partnership with multi-sectors are necessary to narrow the gap(5). Multi-sector collaboration provides mutually supportive relationships, better responses to complex issues, and is more cost-effective. Collaboration can make continuity and progressive changes towards health improvement. These positive changes can be made through community outreach services by raising knowledge of NCDs, which in turn help reduce the main shared modifiable risk factors for NCDs(5).
In conclusion, the growth in NCDs will be disproportionately borne by Indigenous Australians if appropriate public health action is not initiated. Therefore, there is a need for the Government and public to greatly strengthen efforts against NCDs and to protect Indigenous people’s health.

1. Moodle AR. Tolhurst P, Martin JE. Australia’s health: being accountable for prevention. Med J Aust. 2016 Apr 4; 204(6):223-225. doi: 10.5694/mja15.00968
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4704.0 - The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: health conditions and illness [Internet]. Canberra ACT: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2008 [updated 2008 Apr 29; cited 2016 Apr 6].
3. Scougall J. Lessons learnt about strengthening Indigenous families and communities. Canberra ACT: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services; 2008. 128 p. Report No.:19
4. Australia Institute of Health and Welfare. Closing the gap – what works to overcome Indigenous disadvantage [Internet]. Canberra ACT: AIHW; 2016 [updated 2016; cited 2016 Apr 6].
5. Department of Health. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan 2013-2023 [Internet]. Canberra ACT: DoH; 2013 [updated 2015 Oct 22; cited 2016 Apr 6].

Competing Interests: No relevant disclosures

Miss Ho Ling Elaine KO
Monash University

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