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 Mitchell Institute 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.