RACP welcomes ambitious Labor plan to address future health of Australia

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has welcomed Labor’s $115.6 million health announcement today as an ambitious plan that "ticks a lot of boxes" in preparing Australia for future health challenges, to address inequity and stop people getting sick in the first place.

RACP President, Associate Professor Mark Lane, said: “There is a lot in this announcement - many of the things that we've been campaigning for over a number of years. We'll take the time to look over it closely.

“We particularly welcome Labor’s commitment to appoint a National Chief Paediatrician and a whole of government task force to develop a national First 1,000 days program. We are also pleased that Labor is committing to the establishment of national task force to address the accelerated silicosis epidemic.

 “This is an ambitious plan that ticks a lot of boxes in preparing Australia for future health challenges, to address inequity and stop people getting sick in the first place.

“We look forward to working closely with whoever wins government to ensure these important reforms are implemented.

“There has never been a more important time for the Government to invest in a sustainable healthcare system that delivers high quality services for all Australians now and into the future,” Prof Lane said.

In its pre-election statement, the RACP identified sustainability, prevention and equity as three key interlocking priority areas, advocating for a sustainable healthcare system, greater investment in preventative health and a stronger focus on ensuring equity and access for all Australians.

Child health
The RACP has been calling for federal leadership on a comprehensive approach to child health and implementing measures to address health inequities

This includes:

  1. Creation of a Commonwealth Chief Paediatrician role to provide national clinical leadership and advocacy for child health
  2. Reinstating the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) subcommittee on child and youth health
  3. developing equity-based key performance indicators for governments that promote the health, development and well-being of all children.

The RACP has been calling for the appointment of a National Chief Paediatrician for some time, to provide national clinical leadership and advocacy on child health and wellbeing issues across Australia.

The role of Chief Paediatrician and similar roles exist in some states in Australia, and New Zealand has appointed a Chief Advisor for Child and Youth Health.

Australia’s federal system of government means that responsibility for child health and well-being services, programs and policies fall across multiple agencies within different tiers of government.

A Chief Paediatrician could provide advice and input in relation to child health and wellbeing issues potentially impacted by proposed Commonwealth policies, programs and legislation.

A Chief Paediatrician could work with State and Territory colleagues to ensure COAG Health Council maintains a strong focus on child health and wellbeing.

RACP welcomes Labor’s announcement this morning that, if elected, they would prioritise child health and take a whole of government approach, including:

  1. Development of a national first 1000 days program
  2. A whole of government task force on child health
  3. Appointment of a national chief paediatrician
  4. Action to address childhood obesity including reviewing junk food advertising to children

Addressing this health issue requires an urgent nationally coordinated response and effective action from all State and Territories.

Both major parties have now made election commitments to establish the national dust diseases taskforce and a national occupational lung diseases registry:

The Federal Health Minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP announced on 30 April that, if re-elected, the Coalition committed $5m to establish a national dust diseases taskforce and a national occupational lung diseases registry. 

The Labor Party also announced on 2 May that they would establish a taskforce and registry if elected and we look forward to seeing further detail on this.

The announcements follows RACP/Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) advocacy undertaken jointly with the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) calling on both major parties to establish a national taskforce to ensure that there is a consistent and coordinated response to this crisis.

More recently, the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, the Australian New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM) and the Lung Foundation have also joined our advocacy efforts to call on both major parties to fund the National Dust Disease Taskforce and National Dust Disease Registry. 

We welcome these commitments from both major parties as a crucial step to address the current epidemic of accelerated silicosis amongst workers in the artificial stone industry and will continue to work closely with them to effectively implement these measures.

Preventive health
We welcome a range of commitments from Labor on preventive health, as an important step to addressing the harms of alcohol and tobacco, and the obesity epidemic:

  • Implementation of a national obesity strategy
  • Reviewing the regulatory framework of junk food advertising to children
  • Consideration of making the health star rating mandatory and measures to encourage food reformulation
  • A new national alcohol strategy
  • Measures to limit exposure of children to alcohol advertising
  • Mandatory alcohol pregnancy warning labels
  • $40 million funding for Australia’s national tobacco campaign

The RACP’s recent obesity position statement calls for a comprehensive national strategy to prevent and treat obesity as well as a sugar tax, which we consider to be an important component of an effective obesity strategy.

The RACP has strongly advocated over a number of years for comprehensive measures to address the harms of alcohol, including:

  • The introduction of volumetric taxation for all alcoholic beverages and the direction of revenue towards preventative health activities
  • a minimum floor price for alcohol
  • More restricted trading hours
  • The introduction of a single national advertising code covering content and placement with statutory penalties for breach.

Read the RACP full election statement here.

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