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It’s time to tackle chronic diseases: health leaders unite to challenge Canberra

One of the largest research collaborations ever seen in Australia will aid governments in tackling our rising chronic disease problem.

More than 70 leading health experts contributed to the Australian Health Policy Collaboration’s (AHPC) latest report to pinpoint the best ways for Australia to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

AHPC Director Rosemary Calder said the number of leading experts who voluntarily provided data, research and advice to the report is unprecedented and ‘extraordinary’.

“The most knowledgeable minds in Australian health agree that effective policies and programs to address risk factors for chronic diseases are an urgent priority for Australia,” Ms Calder said.

“Chronic diseases are responsible for nine out of ten deaths in Australia, and for much of the public health expenditure about which governments are so concerned – making it one of the most significant issues currently facing our nation.

“It’s not just a health issue – the combined healthcare costs and lost productivity caused by these diseases create a huge economic burden.”

The report proposes a set of chronic disease targets under seven topics: mortality, morbidity and high-risk populations, alcohol, physical inactivity, salt, tobacco, obesity and diabetes and, mental health. These topics align with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Action Plan, with the addition of mental health in the Australian work.

Expert working groups decided targets for each of the seven topics based on the best available evidence and after extensive consultation.

Proposals include age-standardised targets for physical activity, salt intake and alcohol consumption, as well as weight targets for children and adults. The report also nominates targets to reduce the number of deaths caused by cancer, asthma and cardiovascular diseases.

To drive progress in these areas, the report suggests introducing regular national health surveillance, specialised monitoring and intervention for disadvantaged groups and a national health report card.

Ms Calder said is essential that governments commit to a long-term strategy and, importantly, ensure that infrastructure exists for reliable and regular measuring of selected indicators.

“Australian governments have not given adequate or sustained attention to keeping people well, and this must change now if we are to have a thriving population and economy.”

The report, Targets and indicators for chronic disease prevention in Australia will be discussed by senior leaders of Australia’s health, government, academic and community sectors in Melbourne today. It is available online.

Media contact:  Julia Johnston, 03 9919 4549, 0401 136 114, julia.johnston@vu.edu.au.

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