The Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) publishes reports and commissions research focused on Australia's most critical health policy issues and challenges. Our publications are displayed in categories on this page.
Prevention and reduction of chronic diseases
Australia’s Mental and Physical Health Tracker is the first Australian study to quantify the risks of physical health conditions contributing to a wide range of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Released by Professsor Allan Fels AO (AHPC Advisory Board member) on 7 August 2018, the latest national report card reveals the strong links between chronic physical ill health and mental ill health.
The national report card should be read in conjuction with the background paper for which it provides context and extends the data summarised in the Australia’s Mental and Physical Health Tracker report card.
Australia’s Oral Health Tracker is a national report card that's part of the Australia’s Health Tracker series.
This latest report highlights the intrinsic link between oral health and preventable chronic diseases, conditions and their risk factors. Developed and reviewed by experts in the field of dental research, policy, practice, epidemiology and oral health promotion, Australia’s Oral Health Tracker identified current indicators and targets for 2025. This report card has been produced in partnership with the Australian Dental Association.
Better Data for Better Decisions is a sequential report to the policy roadmap Getting Australia’s Health on Track.
This report is the work of a national collaboration of leading experts, researchers and practitioners working in health, education, transport, public health and policy. It outlines a national implementation strategy for an ongoing commitment to the Australian Health Survey.
Download: Better Data for Better Decisions.
The State of Self Care in Australia is a review of the ways in which Australia is attempting to encourage and enable individuals to look after their own health and wellbeing. The role of Self Care in effective health management and treatment is one of the major gaps in Australia’s health policy framework.
This work is the result of an ad-hoc collaboration between three funding organisations, the Australian Self Medication Industry, HCF and Remedy Healthcare and the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University.
Self Care is defined by the WHO (2013) as ‘the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider’. It challenges many longstanding notions about the role of doctor and patient in maintaining the health of individuals and families and recognises that a patient must be an active participant in, rather than a passive recipient of, treatment.
The review found that considerable efforts are being made to support better self-care throughout the country and there is a multiplicity of sources of information. Despite this commitment and activity, there is a lack of strategic direction to help people navigate the complex boundary between individual and professional responsibilities for health. There is scant evidence that people who most need support with self-care and self-management are being effectively targeted by existing programs.
Health policy is confronted by the rapid rise in chronic diseases in the population and the rising costs of health care for these. It is time to rethink how health is supported and governed in order to improve the overall health and wellbeing of the population and achieve better outcomes from investments in health care. This review highlights that the evident potential of self-care as a component of healthy public policy is not being fully harnessed in Australia. It is time to think again.
The report was written by Dr Maria Duggan and Professor Rosemary Calder AM of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration. Organisations that would like to be informed about future developments in the collaboration on health policy for self-care in Australia, should contact Randall Pearce of THINK: Insight & Advice:
Phone: +61 2 9358 6664.
Active school travel: pathways to a healthy future presents an implementation proposal for one of ten national policy priorities developed by leading Australian population health experts to improve the health of all Australians.
This policy paper is the work of a national collaboration of leading experts, researchers and practitioners working in health, education, transport, public health and policy.
This three-part policy framework will support and encourage 3.7 million Australian school children, their families, carers and communities to be supported and participate in active travel to and from school.
Enabling Australia’s children to active travel - walking, cycling or scooting - is an essential component to a national strategy to increase physical activity and improve health for all generations, communities and individuals.
Australia’s Health Tracker by Socio-economic status is a national report card on chronic disease and their risk factors in the population by socio-economic status.
Mortality and life expectancy between people in different socio-economic groups is one of the starkest measures of health inequality. The growing social and economic stress is having a direct impact on household budgets. Rising cost-of-living, high utility bills, spiralling grocery prices and a tough rental market together with insecure employment puts 10 million Australians at greater risk of developing chronic disease.
Launched on 28 November 2017 at the National Press Club, Australia’s Health Tracker by Socio-economic status shines a spotlight on one of the most pressing issues for Australia – the association of economic circumstances with rising levels of poor health of largest segments of Australian population.
The launch featured a panel discussion on the ‘Changing nature of employment in Australia and its impacts on heath, wellbeing and the economy’ with Alan Kohler (expert financial journalist and commentator) and Dr Mukesh Haikerwal AO (leading general practitioner in Melbourne’s Western suburbs).
This national report card calls for tailored policies to address the health impacts of socio and economic conditions to significantly improve all aspects of society and contribute directly to a prosperous, productive and healthy nation.
Heart Health: the first step to getting Australia’s health on track calls for a national strategy to ensure screening of all high risk individuals nationally.
It provides an implementation map for one of the ten priority policy actions proposed in AHPC’s Getting Australia’s Health on Track, 2016. Heart Health compiled by an expert working group of leading chronic disease scientists, clinicians and experts.
The experts call for a dual approach to effective reductions in risks for poor cardiovascular health and preventable premature mortality through primary prevention, a targeted screening tool – Absolute Cardiovascular Risk Assessment and secondary prevention – treatment and management of individuals who have had a relevant incident.
Getting Australia’s Health on Track presents 10 priority policy actions that, together, will get Australia well on track to reach the 2025 targets and significantly reduce preventable illness and disability in the population.
The priority policy actions have been developed by expert working groups of Australia’s leading chronic disease scientists, researchers and clinicians.
The priority policy actions complement existing national and state and territory policy measures aimed at reducing chronic disease incidence and prevalence.
View the report Getting Australia’s Health on Track.
Australia’s Health Tracker by Area interactive website maps data on common chronic diseases, conditions and their risk factors by Primary Health Network catchment, Local Government Area and State and Territory areas.
It has been designed to enhance the use, for planning, commissioning and monitoring, of a range of data from a number of sources that relate to the risk factors for preventable chronic diseases.
The website complements the data presented in Australia’s Health Tracker that we launched in July this year. Australia’s Health Tracker is a report card on the key risk factors and indicators for preventable chronic disease. It provides an analysis of available data to track Australia’s status against health targets and indicators for a healthier Australia by 2025.
The website we now have in development, “Australia’s Health Tracker by Area” provides localised profiles of progress against those targets. It is intended to be accessible and useful to primary health networks, local hospital networks, local governments and state and federal governments. More particularly, it is designed to increase awareness of the importance of these targets and indicators in measuring the health risks in the Australian population – and their direct relevance to public policy and funding actions and responsibilities at all levels of government as well as for health service providers.
Visit Australia's Health Tracker by Area website.
Find out how healthy your suburb is using these handy interactive health maps developed by The Age.
Australia’s Health Tracker, Australia’s Adult Health Tracker and Australia’s Children and Young People Health Tracker are report cards that provide a comprehensive assessment of the health of Australians in relation to chronic diseases and their risk factors.
The report cards will be issued regularly and will track progress towards the targets for a healthier Australia by 2025.
Launched at a national forum on 5 July 2016, over 50 public health organisations are signatories to Australia’s Health Tracker. The Forum’s key note speaker, Graham MacGregor, a Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, has praised the work and urged that Australia follow the lead of the United Kingdom in sugar and salt reform.
Compiled through the collaborative effort and expert guidance of leading Australian public health and chronic disease experts Australia’s Health Tracker has been developed and is published by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University.
Australia has an unacceptably high rate of risk factors for chronic diseases including obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol misuse, smoking and poor nutrition.
This technical paper proposes a set of national chronic disease targets and indicators as a means of measuring progress and enhancing accountability for action.
The paper was developed through a national working group process involving experts from across Australia.
The Australian Health Policy Collaboration is facilitating development of a set of targets and indicators to measure and track the prevention and management of chronic diseases in Australia.
Using criteria described in this paper, the AHPC will work with health stakeholders from the public and non‐government sectors to review the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases targets and indicators and consider suitable alternatives where necessary. The WHO 25 x 25 targets are a key set of measures for Australia to assess and draw from, however, national measures must be tailored to the Australian context.
The AHPC work on chronic disease policies for Australia, outlined in this paper, takes a broader approach to chronic diseases, including for example, mental illness.
This paper should be read in conjunction with the technical paper Suitability of the WHO 25 x 25 chronic disease targets and indicators for Australia, for which it provides context and background.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013‐2020 aims to reduce the burden of non‐communicable diseases by 2025, through action on nine targets measured by 25 indicators of performance.
While the WHO 25 x 25 targets were cited as a key set of measures for Australia to assess and improve the health of the population, they must be tailored to the Australian context.
This paper reviews the nationally available data relevant to the WHO 25 x 25 targets and indicators, identifying any gaps that exist. This report will be used to provoke discussion and inform the development of targets and indicators, based on the WHO model, but tailored to Australia’s population health needs.
This paper, released on 1 June 2015, identifies strategic priorities for taking action to prevent chronic diseases.
It is the second report by Dr Sharon Willcox for the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (formerly the Mitchell Institute Health Program) on this issue.
The first report, Chronic diseases in Australia: the case for changing course, mapped out the social, economic and health costs of chronic diseases to the Australian community, as well as identifying the evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of preventing chronic diseases.
Chronic diseases in Australia: Blueprint for preventive action moves beyond the evidence to provide a framework for action. The vision of this Blueprint is to reduce the impact and incidence of chronic diseases through preventive interventions.
At a national forum in Melbourne on 1 June 2015, hosted by the Mitchell Institute, Professor Allan Fels, AO, launched the report Chronic diseases in Australia: Blueprint for preventive action and a Statement of Commitment for national action co-signed by more than 40 organisations across Australia.
The aim of the forum was to explore how targets and indicators have worked and can work in chronic disease prevention, and to strengthen a collaborative approach for preventive action. Discussion on the day was facilitated by Rosemary Calder, with Professor Maximilian de Courten.
Keynote addresses were delivered by two speakers: Professor Roger Magnusson, Professor of Health Law & Governance at Sydney Law School, University of Sydney and Commissioner Mick Gooda,Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission.
This forum report summarises the key themes from the forum.
The burden of chronic disease in Australia threatens to overwhelm the health budget, the capacity of health services and the health workforce. Much of that burden is preventable through effective, evidence‐based changes to policy.
This is a background paper for the November 2014 policy forum Chronic diseases in Australia: The case for changing course. The paper, written by Dr Sharon Willcox with the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (formerly the Mitchell Institute Health Program) and a national expert advisory group, provides the case for changing course in Australian policies.
It addresses the health and non‐health factors contributing to the prevalence of chronic diseases and puts forward four major directions for change. We anticipate this paper will promote debate in the policy community and encourage new action on chronic disease.
The AHPC policy paper Investing in women’s mental health, strengthening the foundations for women, families and the Australian economy discusses the extensive evidence that women’s mental health needs are significantly different from those of men.
Certain mental illnesses are more prevalent in women, they use mental health services more frequently than men, and they want a broader range of treatment options than are currently available.
- Mental disorders represent the leading cause of disability and the highest burden of non-fatal illnesses for women in Australia.
- 43% of Australian women (3.5 million) have experienced mental illness at some time.
- Australian women are more likely than men to have experienced symptoms of a mental disorder during the previous 12 months (22% of women compared to 18% of men).
- Young women report the highest rates of mental disorder of any population group (30% for women aged 16 to 24).
- One in five mothers of children aged 24 months or less are diagnosed with depression. This represents an estimated 111,000 Australian mothers being diagnosed with depression, and 56,000 with perinatal depression annually.
- Women are 1.6 times as likely as men to suffer coexisting mental and physical illness. These multimorbidities are associated with increased severity of mental illness and increased disability.
- The number of hospital admissions for specialised psychiatric care following a principal diagnosis of recurrent depressive disorders and specific personality disorders was substantially higher for females than males during 2007–08.
- In 2007-08, females aged 35–44 were the highest consumers of Medicare-subsidised mental health-related GP services.
- Women in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have much poorer physical and mental health than other Australians. The suicide rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is highest within the 20-24 years old age group (21.8 per 100,000), which is more than five times higher than their corresponding non-indigenous counterparts (4.0 per 100,000).
The burden of poor mental health amongst women results in adverse social and economic consequences, including disability, reduced life expectancy, impoverishment of individual women, unemployment, reduced productivity, and increasing costs of healthcare and welfare.
Women’s mental health is influenced by biological, psychosocial, economic and environmental factors. The high prevalence of mental distress amongst women and girls of all ages is bound up in the totality of women’s experiences including social and economic inequality. There is an urgent need to counter the gender-blindness of current mental health policy which serves to make these experiences invisible. Policies which reinforce this invisibility are not only ineffective; they are part of the problem.
This paper argues that it is time for a new approach aimed at tackling these gendered risks and enhancing protections across the life course.
Download: Investing in women's mental health
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and the AHPC have jointly commissioned new data: The economic costs of serious mental illness and comorbidities in Australia and New Zealand.
This report highlights the significant inequalities, including substantially shorter lives, experienced by people with severe mental illnesses. Some estimates suggest that the lives of both men and women with severe mental illness are up to 30% shorter than those of the general population. Whilst higher rates of suicide account for some of this burden, most of this excess mortality is a consequence of physical diseases including diabetes, respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and cancer. A proportion of this burden is potentially avoidable.
These figures illuminate the scale of the human suffering caused by the crisis of poorly managed chronic disease amongst people with severe mental illnesses. There is an urgent, humanitarian need for action to transform these outcomes. There is also an economic case to be made. The RANZCP report estimates that in 2014, the additional cost of the physical illness burden of people with severe mental illnesses was $56.7 billion in Australia. This represents 3.5% of GDP. The outcomes discussed in this report appear to reflect very poor value for money from this expenditure.
The economic data discussed in this report extends the analysis of the recent AHPC report Beyond the Fragments. These reports add to the growing body of evidence about the strength of the associations between mental and physical health and the need for a radical, new policy agenda to create a more integrated and effective approach to prevention and management of concurrent diseases.
Turning the spotlight on the poor health outcomes of people with both long-term physical and mental health problems marks an important beginning to a radical change process. Pointing to the lives and billions of dollars wasted because of a failure to coordinate mental and physical health needs becomes a compelling ambition when healthcare resources are so tight.
The AHPC has summarised the key policy issues arising from the RANZCP report in a short paper.
Chronic and complex health conditions are now the predominant health burden for Australians – affecting education and employment, individual and family wellbeing as well as the national costs of health care and the impact of these on the national economy.
Beyond the Fragments: Preventing the Costs and Consequences of Chronic Physical and Mental Diseases highlights the strong link between chronic physical and mental ill health. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show almost 12 per cent of Australians aged between 16 and 85 years – an estimated 1.9 million people – have both a mental disorder and a physical condition.
People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, have significantly raised rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.
The paper follows the release of The Australian Health Policy Collaboration report Targets and Indicators for Chronic Disease Prevention in Australia encompassing both chronic physical and mental ill health. These targets and indicators are to support, guide and track Australian progress in reducing preventable chronic diseases and their impact on the Australian population.
Beyond the Fragments calls for an integrated approach to the prevention, treatment and management of chronic physical and mental conditions.
Integrated care needs to be supported by national health funding arrangements capable of providing ‘packaged’ care services to people with complex care needs. The AHPC recently has called for the establishment of a national health insurance scheme to enable Australian health services to provide adequate and effective prevention and treatment of chronic health conditions.
In The Case for Change Towards Universal and Sustainable National health Insurance and Financing for Australia: enabling the transition to a chronic condition focused health care system, published by AHPC, authors Francesco Paolucci of Murdoch University and Manual Garcia-Goni of the University of Madrid propose a model of health financing for Australia that would best support efficient and effective health services focused on prevention, treatment and management of chronic diseases.
Australian governments have maintained a strong focus on health policy over many years. Much of that focus addresses the pressures on funding, hospitals and health workers, and the pressures arising from an ageing population.
The Australian Health Policy Collaboration commissioned this paper to consider how best to inform health funding and financing policies in Australia, with regards to prevention, treatment and management of chronic disease.
Early childhood is acknowledged as the most crucial developmental period in a person’s life. It creates a foundation for the later years and offers a critical opportunity to establish good health and learning outcomes for a lifetime.
As part of our broader focus on chronic disease prevention policy, the Australian Health Policy Collaboration is looking at the costs and benefits of action (and inaction) in early childhood and the evidence that indicates a much-needed shift in health policy.
To inform this work, the AHPC (formerly Mitchell Institute Health Program) commissioned Dr Kim Sweeny of the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies to look at what is currently known about the relationship between socio-economic disadvantage in early childhood and poor health and education outcomes in adulthood.
Roundtable summary: On 30 October 2014, the Mitchell Institute Health Program (now the Australian Health Policy Collaboration) hosted a policy roundtable to consider the evidence outlined in Dr Kim Sweeny’s report, The influence of childhood circumstances on adult health.
The paper explores the importance of early childhood in establishing lifetime advantages for health and education.
A group of 25 experts were brought together to discuss the policy barriers and opportunities to achieve much needed reform.
The Growing Brimbank Program
Growing Brimbank is a long-term collaborative program between the Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Victoria University and the City of Brimbank. It aims to lift health and education outcomes in the local community by harnessing the strengths and tackling the challenges through a place based program.
This will enable policy makers, service planners and partners providers, funders and residents to work together towards building a more successful and prosperous community.
The following publications focus on:
- the evidence directing the change and the suite of foundation reports
- the outline of the program and the prospectus for our work.
A suite of foundation reports, which underpin the Growing Brimbank program, have now been published.
- The Brimbank Atlas of Health and Education 2014
- Physical Activity, Sport and Health in the city of Brimbank 2014
- The Brimbank Spatial Map of Physical and Social Infrastructure 2017.
Together, the reports provide an unique and comprehensive description tailored for a specific community about:
- priority health and development risk factors, and if unaddressed
- Impacts in later life on social inclusion, productivity and wellbeing
- underlying factors driving poor outcomes - such as socio-economic inequities, low capacity and capability to make healthy choices and poor access to physical and social infrastructure that promote good health and wellbeing.
Using nationally or locally replicable data, these reports can be repeated over time and place. They provide the baseline for determining best value investments and for informing policy frameworks and service models to implement and sustain change both locally and for other similar communities.
Who should use the reports?
The suite of reports should be used by community planners, policymakers and practitioners.
Together the reports provide the resources and ‘tool kit’ for
- understanding the evidence of risk factors affecting the foundations for well-being and prosperity
- identifying system failure points
- accessing information about the capacity and assets on which to build prevention and early intervention strategies
- framing the opportunities for risk mitigation
- making decisions about the leverage points where the best evidence of ‘what works’ can be effectively applied to address or reduce the impact of those multifactorial issues and risk factors.
The report Growing Brimbank: A collaborative approach to lifting health and education outcomes summarises the key findings of the Brimbank Atlas and Physical Activity reports.
The Brimbank Atlas maps the influences on health and education in the Brimbank community.
This atlas, prepared by the Public Health Information Development Unit at The University of Adelaide for the AHPC (formerly the Mitchell Institute Health Program), provides a range of information for decision-makers, planners, service providers, researchers and communities.
Its intention is to bring a better understanding of the complex interactions between individuals and families, their environments and social structures over a lifetime, and how these factors influence the health, education and ultimately, the prosperity of current and future Brimbank residents.
This report, prepared by Sport and Recreation Spatial, provides a summary of key indicators of participation in physical activity and sport, together with potentially related key demographic characteristics and indicators of health and education, for the City of Brimbank, a local government area in Melbourne, Australia.
The indicators for the City of Brimbank are benchmarked against other local government areas in Melbourne and the state of Victoria. The report analyses the value of physical activity and sport for health and education.
The Brimbank Spatial Map of Physical and Social Infrastructure (‘The Spatial Map’) (2017) augments the health and social data collated in the first two foundation reports underpinning the Growing Brimbank program.
It uses geographic information systems (GIS) to map the distribution, availability and contribution of significant physical and social infrastructure to health and education outcomes in the community.
These can support individual capability and community capacity for health and wellbeing.
The report maps associations (correlations) between physical and social infrastructure within the Brimbank community and six health and development indicators selected from The Brimbank Atlas of Health and Education 2014.
This technical appendix is a companion and reference tool for the publication The Brimbank Spatial Map of Physical and Social Infrastructure 2017 (referred to as The Spatial Map, 2017).
It consists of the List of Brimbank spatial data items March 2017 and Spatial metadata for the Brimbank Spatial Map of Physical and Social Infrastructure.
These describe the sources and use of spatial data accompanying the Brimbank Spatial Map including:
- the outputs: summary shapefiles
- GIS format and field length
- field structure of output summary shapefiles
- list of input spatial datasets.