Health protection, prevention and promotion have taken a backseat to Medicare in the media this election campaign.
However, these important areas of the health system will arguably have a greater impact on the future health of our community than Medicare rebate levels and bulkbilling rates.
The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has been monitoring the commitments of political parties to preventive health in state/territory and federal elections for many years.
This election, the PHAA has developed a comprehensive preventive health framework covering health protection, prevention and promotion and is calling on all political parties to support its evidence-based policy.
In the piece below, PHAA CEO Michael Moore outlines the three ‘top asks’ of the PHAA and describes how its prevention framework reflects global public health and development initiatives such as the Global Charter for the Public’s Health and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Michael Moore writes:
There has been significant success in this election campaign in having parties committing to a healthier society. Prevention has been the hallmark with the Labor and Greens parties releasing comprehensive statements, the recommitment of the tobacco tax in the Federal Budget 2016 by the Liberal party and the Nick Xenophon Team committing to an emphasis on prevention as a key element of their Health Care ‘Principles’.
The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has used prevention as a key measure over many Federal, State and Territory elections. Using the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures on government spending on prevention allows comparisons over recent years and between governments.
However, the PHAA has been seeking broader thinking and a commitment to a proactive, evidenced based public health approach from government. The PHAA Election Priorities provide a framework for a healthier Australia through prevention, promotion and protection.
Top 3 asks
The top three asks from the PHAA to all political parties are:
- To increase the level of Federal funding for prevention from 1.7% (AIHW) to 5% of the health budget. Investing in prevention, along with promotion and protection of the public’s health keeps people well and out of hospital, significantly decreasing long term pressure on the health system.
- Address the harms associated with alcohol and sugar through appropriate consumption tax arrangements – and apply a hypothecation to ensure savings are reinvested into health promotion and protection initiatives not only with regard to unhealthy consumption but across health.
- Focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s health needs, including chronic diseases; tobacco; diabetes; mental health; youth suicide and closing the gap on life expectancy.
Additionally there are a series of specific asks in the PHAA Election Priorities. The first is on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The asks focus on setting targets and includes issues such as incarceration, early childhood, food access and security and specifically calls on governments to invest in a holistic approach to the social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that supports prevention, treatment and opportunities to strengthen cultural identity and social inclusion. The PHAA is also a supporter of the Redfern Statement.
Taxing tobacco, alcohol and sugar
Unhealthy commodities such as tobacco, alcohol and sugar are in the PHAA sights as a taxation measure. The PHAA identifies that “tobacco tax provides an important funding stream for evidence based, hard hitting media campaigns and quit messages as well as support for disadvantaged groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Taxes on alcohol and sugar should be used in a similar manner. Taxation and price controls are among the most effective policy interventions to reduce harm from sugary drinks and from alcohol.” The protection, promotion and prevention principles are embedded in this approach.
Taxes on sugary soft drinks are only a part of a comprehensive approach to good nutrition. The PHAA calls on governments to implement a long overdue National Nutrition Policy. A Scoping Study has been completed and is on the website of the Department of Health. It is time for political parties to implement a comprehensive approach. A contemporary National Nutrition Plan is needed that addresses the high cost and increasing rates of diet related chronic diseases.
Climate change, women’s health, mental health, access and affordability of health care, a national injury prevention policy, oral health, the impact of international trade on health and financial support for political parties from the unhealthy commodity industries are considered as priorities for the PHAA and are included in the document.
These priorities are based on evidence in over seventy publicly available health policies that may be found on the PHAA website and that will continue to form the basis of the advocacy work carried out by the broad membership of the PHAA.
As a member of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, PHAA contributed to the recently published Global Charter for the Public’s Health (Charter) which identifies prevention, protection and promotion as part of an overlapping framework for better health.
The Charter is read in conjunction with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and builds on a long tradition of public health thinking and inspiration, from the time of The Declaration of Alma Ata through to The Ottawa Charter and the Commission into the Social Determinants of Health.
The comprehensive approach identified by the Charter provides an opportunity for those approaches to public health that can make a difference. Similarly, the PHAA election priorities provide an Australian context on addressing our public’s health needs and provides a template for governments to move towards a healthier Australia within a prevention, protection and promotion framework.