Preventing chronic disease

While medical technology, procedures and pharmaceuticals continue to improve, a growing number of Australians are developing diseases and suffering premature death because of avoidable lifestyle risk factors.

Page last updated: 08 May 2007

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8 May 2007
ABB 55/07

While medical technology, procedures and pharmaceuticals continue to improve, a growing number of Australians are developing diseases and suffering premature death because of avoidable lifestyle risk factors.

The 2007-08 Budget contains additional funding of $236 million of new funding for measures to help Australians to avoid preventable chronic illnesses.

Healthy choices have the potential not only to improve our health now and into the future, but the health of our children.

The measures include a new program to identify people at risk of type 2 diabetes and help for them to modify risky behaviours, a new survey to collect information on Australians’ habits and health, new public information and education campaigns, and grants to communities to support local good health initiatives.

Eligibility for two cholesterol lowering drugs through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will also be extended to help people at risk of developing heart disease.

COAG – reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes

Without effective interventions, it is estimated that by the year 2030 around 3.3 million Australians will have developed type 2 diabetes.

The Commonwealth Government will provide $103.4 million over four years as its contribution to a cost-shared initiative with state and territory governments to address growth in type 2 diabetes announced by COAG on 13 April 2007. States and territories will provide a further $101 million for other activities to address type 2 diabetes.

The Commonwealth’s contribution will focus on people aged 40 to 49 years by encouraging them to take a “tick test” in their general practitioner’s surgery. Patients with a high risk score will be reviewed by their GP, who may refer them to an accredited subsidised lifestyle modification program. These programs might typically comprise a number of sessions of group counselling followed by monthly telephone follow-ups for three months. Programs may adopt alternative mixes of face-to-face and telephone contact in delivering the prescribed standards of patient contact to achieve sustained behavioural change.

National standards and accreditation will be put in place for these programs to help people change their lifestyles to delay or prevent onset of diabetes. National standards will ensure that lifestyle modification programs offered to the public are both safe and effective in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Accreditation will be required for the subsidised programs included in this package. The risk assessment tick test, program standards and accreditation arrangements will be completed in mid-2008.

Wider access to anti cholesterol drugs on the PBS

Access to two important drugs to combat high cholesterol levels through the PBS will be widened to help more people to avoid development of heart disease.

Cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.

The extension of eligibility to Ezetrol® (ezetimibe) and Vytorin® (ezetimibe and simvastatin) through the PBS will commence on 1 August 2007 and will cost $77.6 million over four years. It accords with the recommendations of the Review of the PBS Subsidisation of Lipid Lowering drugs.

Around 42,000 people are expected to start treatment with one of these drugs in the first full year, as a result of the Budget decision.

Skin cancer awareness campaign – continuation of funding

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer and skin cancer deaths in the world. The toll is rising: the incidence of melanomas in the Australian population is expected to increase more than 20 per cent between 2002 and 2011.

A 2004 survey showed that young Australians are not taking the risk of skin cancer seriously. Long-term behavioural change is needed to protect these young people from future disease and death.

The current national education campaign on skin cancer will be extended and updated at a cost of $11.5 million over two years to provide young Australians with a strong, factual warning about the dangers of skin cancer and the actions they should take to prevent it.

Healthy Active Australia – grants for physical activity projects in the community

The rate of overweight and obesity among adult Australians has doubled over the past two decades. The consequences include rising levels of chronic disease which, apart from the impact on the lifestyle and wellbeing of the individual, cost the nation an estimated $1.2 billion a year.

The Commonwealth Government will provide direct support to communities to make it easier for adult and older people to take part in physical activities and social interaction to improve their weight and overall health.

One-off grants totalling $11.7 million over four years will be available to local projects to create new activities and extend or evaluate existing activities such as healthy walking groups. Groups will also be able to apply for grants to buy equipment or other minor infrastructure.

Healthy Active Australia – funding for a national nutrition and physical activity survey

Detailed information about Australians’ weight, what they eat and what exercise they do, will be collected in an ongoing series of National Nutrition and Physical Activity Surveys. The next survey will focus on adults and involve up to 14,000 participants.

Survey results will be used to assess the outlook for lifestyle-related health problems, and to develop new education campaigns to encourage people to change their eating habits and levels of physical activity. It will also support regulatory decisions concerning food supply. The surveys will also be used to assess the impact of health education campaigns.

Funding of $10.6 million over four years has been provided for the surveys, which over time will examine all sections of the population.

Sexually transmitted infections – establishment of National Prevention Program

A new $9.8 million national campaign over four years will encourage safe sexual practices to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

The most recent figures indicate an increase in the number of new HIV cases by 41 per cent over a five-year period. There have also been large rises in chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis.

The new national campaign will increase awareness of the risk of STIs and HIV and provide advice on behavioural change. It will particularly target at-risk communities including homosexual men, young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Breastfeeding – education and support

A $8.7 million community information and education campaign will encourage new mothers to start and continue to breastfeed their babies.

Research will explore the reasons why many Australian mothers decide not to breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding before the recommended period of six months.

Practical and up-to-date information will be provided to parents in take-home packs after the birth. From August 2008, a public education campaign will target messages to expecting and new parents about the importance of breastfeeding in promoting good health and resistance to disease throughout life.

Hepatitis C Education and Prevention Initiative – continuation of funding

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, and education and prevention is essential to reduce the number of new infections.

For people who are infected, early testing, diagnosis and treatment are also very important in improving their health outcomes.

This initiative will also provide information on testing, diagnosis and treatment to the nearly 200,000 people living with chronic hepatitis C infection. The disease is now the most common reason for liver transplants in Australia.

The Government has committed $17.0 million over four years to continue the Hepatitis C Education and Prevention Initiative.

Healthy Active Australia – CSIRO wellbeing plan for children

The Government will provide $3.0 million over two years to develop a Wellbeing Plan for Children and to update Australia’s scientific guidelines on children’s nutrition.

Following the success of CSIRO’s Total Wellbeing books for adults, the Wellbeing Plan for Children will provide practical support for parents to promote healthy eating and physical activity for children.

It will also provide information about the types and quantity of food children should be eating, and may include recipes and exercise suggestions for parents to improve eating patterns and physical activity in children.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents will also be updated to contribute the latest scientific evidence for the CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for children.

Media contact: Claire Kimball 0413 486 926

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