Promoting health throughout life

The Government will work with the states and territories to help people make better lifestyle choices and reduce the risk of ill health.

Page last updated: 09 May 2006

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9 May 2006

While Australians are now living longer than ever before, there is a growing burden of chronic disease, much of which can be prevented or minimised by good health management.

By 2020, it is estimated that 80 per cent of the total burden of disease will be due to chronic diseases with common risk factors. Already these lifestyle risk factors, such as smoking, excessive drinking, lack of physical activity and obesity, account for 28 per cent of the total burden of disease.

The Commonwealth Government will work with the states and territories to help people make better lifestyle choices and reduce the risk of ill health.

Promoting good health, prevention and early intervention (Australian Better Health Initiative)

The Government will provide $250 million over five years from 2005-06 towards the new national programme to promote good health and reduce the burden of chronic disease, Australian Better Health Initiative.

This initiative, agreed by the Council of Australian Governments in February 2006, will have total funding of $500 million, with the remainder supplied by the States and Territories.

The initiative will include the following elements:

Promoting healthy lifestyles

Initiatives to encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles before they become ill include rolling health promotion campaigns, national school canteen guidelines, and school and local community-based programmes.

Early detection of lifestyle risks and chronic disease

A new Medicare item will encourage doctors in general practice and community health centres to conduct health checks on patients about 45 years of age with identifiable health risk factors, even if they have no symptoms of illness.

More support for healthy lifestyle changes

This will increase counselling and education on how to improve nutrition, physical activity etc, by various providers, including GPs, nurses and allied health professionals, State health services, and non-government organisations.

Encouraging patients to manage their chronic disease

New self management programmes will assist people affected by chronic disease, and education and resources will support health professionals advising patients on self management.

Improving primary care integration and coordination of cancer care

A new Medicare item will support case conferencing by cancer specialists. State and territory care coordination services for cancer patients will be improved.

Pregnancy support counselling - New Medicare item and National Telephone Helpline

A new National Telephone Helpline will be established at a cost of $15.5 million over four years from 2006-07. The Helpline will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across Australia. The Helpline will provide non-directive, confidential counselling and advice to women and their partners and on the services available to support pregnant women.

The Helpline will start in late 2006 and will be evaluated after its first year of operation.

From November 2006, new MBS items will also allow women who are uncertain about continuing a pregnancy to obtain Medicare subsidised, confidential counselling from an eligible GP, or qualified allied mental health professionals such as psychologists, on referral from a GP. Women who have been pregnant within the last 12 months will also be eligible for these services. These items will cost $35.6 million over four years from 2006-07.

An information campaign will ensure that pregnant women and their partners are aware of the help available through these new services.

Optical health - support

This new initiative, costing $13.8 million will promote eye health to reduce avoidable blindness and loss of vision.

Much vision loss is potentially avoidable through prevention activities, early detection and intervention. However, many Australians with treatable eye diseases may not seek help until it is too late for sight to be preserved.

The initiative will be targeted at people who are at particular risk of eye disease including older people, people with a family history of eye disease, people with diabetes and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Improving care for older patients in public hospitals

At the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) meeting on 10 February, the Government announced its
contribution of $152.7 million to improve care for older patients in public hospitals around Australia. This initiative will work to minimise the length of stay in hospital, avoid
unnecessary admissions and improve care services, particularly when people live longer term in smaller, rural hospitals.

The Government will provide this funding over four years to the state and territories, complementing the joint Commonwealth, state and territory Transition Care Programme which aims to help older people return home after a hospital stay rather than enter residential care.

Other measures

I am also announcing tonight that the government will maintain funding for a number of successful programmes which would otherwise have ended soon. These are:

Lifescripts - increased funding

The Lifescripts initiatives which provides GPs with practical tools and skills to help patients address lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, nutrition and unhealthy weight, will be expanded (by $2.7 million to $5.5 million over four years), and adapted for use with culturally diverse patients.

National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre - continue funding

The Government has committed $1.1 million over the next four years - which will be matched by funding provided by the National Seniors Association over the same period – to enable the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre to continue its research programme into how best to support and promote productive ageing.

Better Arthritis and Osteoporosis Care - continue funding

Funding of $14.8 million over four years will be provided for information and educational strategies to raise awareness of effective management of arthritis and osteoporosis, including an arthritis-friendly workplace programme, clinical guidelines and a national monitoring programme on these diseases.

National Continence Management Strategy - continue funding

The Australian Government will provide funding of $18.2 million over four years to continue initiatives to improve continence awareness, management and treatment. These will assist the estimated 3.8 million Australians who are affected by incontinence to live and participate in their community with confidence and dignity.

Palliative Care in the Community - continue funding

This programme funds national initiatives that directly contribute to improvement of care services for people with terminal illness and support for their families and carers.

Funding of $62.8 million over four years will be provided to continue the programme and support improvement in delivery of palliative services particularly in rural areas and aged care and for children and Indigenous people.

Cervical Screening Incentives for General Practitioners - continue funding

This programme improves the rate of early detection of cervical cancer in Australian women aged 20 to 69 years by encouraging GPs to screen women, and in particular, those who have not previously had a cervical smear or have not had a cervical smear in the last four years, including Indigenous women, women from culturally diverse backgrounds and women in rural and remote areas.

The Government will provide funding of $97.2 million over the next four years to this ongoing programme.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease - increase funding for surveillance

Support services for people with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), or who might develop it, will be continued and expanded, with an additional $0.2 million taking total funding to $1.4 million over four years. These services will include surveillance activities for all forms of CJD in Australia, support for people with CJD, and updating infection control guidelines.

This measure not only assists people with CJD but helps to prevent the spread of the disease.

Media contact: Kate Miranda 0417 425 227

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