Best of Health for Australia, the experts’ priorities for the 2019 Federal Election and Beyond

Political leaders must embrace the need for changes and investment in our health system to create a consumer-centred and equitable 21st century health system.

What is the right level of investment? Is prevention adequately considered currently? What impact will the rising levels of obesity and chronic disease have on the health system, and how might we address this?

While our health system may be serving us reasonably well now, this will be increasingly challenged given the escalating pressures from complex and chronic condition, placing a huge burden on lives, the health system and the economy.  

The George Institute for Global Health and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia jointly presented a National Press Club event on Friday, 22 March. Three health policy leaders discussed and debated potential health priorities for the 2019 Federal Election. The panellists were Karen Carey, a leading consumer advocate, Professor Stephen Duckett, director of the Grattan Institute’s health program and Dr Sandro Demaio, international public health advocate and presenter of the ABC’s Ask the Doctor.

Dr Demaio focused on the childhood obesity burden in Australia affecting more than one in four children saying: “Bowel cancer is becoming more common in adolescents. And fatty liver disease, a disease almost unheard of in children, is now increasing.

“The longer we wait, the longer we go without a plan, the longer we fail to invest in prevention – the longer our kids suffer needlessly. For the health of Aussie kids, and our nation, we need a comprehensive plan for prevention.”

Professor Duckett spoke about private health insurance, the need for a universal dental plan as well as stressing the need for a new approach to healthcare saying “Health and wellness system is created in all parts of our lives.”

Ms Carey spoke about My Health Record and how there was an urgent need for it to be used and trusted by consumers and the need for targeted medical research.

The George Institute and CHF have joined forces in recent years to identify and advocate for reforms to the health system to drive more comprehensive policies for preventive health, system efficiencies and consumer-focused care. 

The CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said that the Press Club discussion involving experts with evidence-based ideas for change, provided a platform for an informed health debate.  “There is much evidence available showing how much more we could do in Australia to improve health care and the overall health of the nation. Our health system must be more consumer-centred and focused on integrated primary health care in the community. “

The Executive Director of The George Institute, Australia, Professor Vlado Perkovic said it’s a pivotal time in the health of our nation.

“Whilst we have one of the best health systems in the world, it is not good enough that one in two Australians have a chronic disease. Prevention, health equity, and evidence must underpin the health agenda and be matched with serious commitment and investment across all levels of government.”  

There is a clear need for policies and treatments to target chronic disease, which account for around 80 per cent of the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.

These include curbing the marketing of food to children and reformulation of food products, to improving access to basic, proven preventative treatments.

View CHF and TGI thought leadership roundtable publication series