‘Disappointing’ – Physicians say preventive healthcare overlooked in budget

May 14, 2021

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) says it’s disappointed the Australian Government has overlooked the need to invest in preventive health – and that $250 million over 4 years is not enough. This is much lower than preventive health expenditure in Canada and the UK for example, where expenditure is over 5 per cent of the health budget.

The College says significant investment in preventive health is critical for better preparing Australia for future health challenges by reducing risk factors causing chronic disease.

Last night’s budget only allocated $1.9 million for the next year to operational costs to ‘kick start’ the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030.

This is out of a total of $250.9 million over four years.

RACP President Professor John Wilson says “The pandemic has taught us many things – one of them is the importance of having a strong robust health system that is prepared for major health crises.

“This budget allocation is welcome, but is well short of being able to sustain preventative health across our national system.”

Most of the $250 million over four years committed to prevention will go to cancer screening and continuation of existing alcohol and drug initiatives. Whilst these are worthy initiatives and recognised as such in the National Preventive Health Strategy, the Strategy encompasses other elements such as obesity, social determinants of health and climate change and health. Spending less than $2 million to develop an operational plan for the Strategy is short-sighted.

“Now is the time to be proactive and invest in protecting the Australian population against future pandemics and other health crises, which are inevitably in our future.

“Covid has highlighted that people with chronic health conditions are often at greater risk of disease from infection. Many chronic health conditions can be prevented by investing in the right preventative health measures.

“By expanding preventative healthcare initiatives we can reduce the burden of disease in Australia and better protect our community against the challenges of the future – not to mention the benefits of easing the financial strain on our healthcare system.”

Key facts about the disease burden in Australia:

  • Almost 40 per cent of the national burden of disease is preventable and due to key modifiable risk factors such as unhealthy diet, harmful consumption of alcohol or lack of physical activity.1
  •  Over 80 per cent of Australians are estimated to have at least one chronic condition or risk factor for one.2

“A growing number of people living with complex and co-morbid conditions translates to an increase in poorer health outcomes and in loss of life and wellbeing. This includes worse outcomes from diseases such as COVID-19.

Further detail about the RACP’s preventive health priorities for the budget can be found in the RACP Pre-budget submission, detailing all 48 recommendations to Government.

1Britt, H., Miller, G.C., Henderson, J., Bayram, C., Harrison, C., Valenti, L., Pan, Y., Charles, J., Pollack, A.J., Wong, C. and Gordon, J., 2016. General practice
activity in Australia 2015–16. Sydney University Press
2Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015 AIHW 20

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