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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4225


Mr RIPOLL (7:37 PM) —One of the most widely debated and, it seems, unresolved issues facing all Australians in some form is chronic disease. This country is revered for its outdoor lifestyle, sporting endeavours and the image of the lean, bronzed Aussie, but it must come as no surprise that chronic disease is a very real and urgent issue that needs addressing. Australia is a healthy country by international standards, but we need to understand the consequences of the fact that around 32 per cent of the population’s illnesses are caused by tobacco, obesity, harmful and high use of alcohol, physical inactivity, poor diet and the associated risk factors of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. We tend to refer to these epidemics in an almost glib fashion, with little regard to their individual complexity, cultural pervasiveness or the ultimate social and economic cost.

Some startling facts that will no doubt put this into perspective are as follows. It is estimated that three million people alone will have diabetes by 2030. Cardiovascular diseases including heart disease, stroke and blood vessel disease are the leading cause of death in Australia, for almost 50,000 people died as a result of cardiovascular disease in 2004. Skin cancer accounts for around 81 per cent of all new cancers diagnosed each year in Australia. Around 380,000 people are treated for skin cancer each year and approximately 1,400 people die from it. There are around 10,000 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year and around 4½ thousand deaths from it.

Couple these statistics with our ageing population and the life expectancy gap of Indigenous Australians and you soon understand that more must be done. As such, we have seen the establishment of the Preventative Health Taskforce and a men’s health policy that is the first of its kind in Australia. The Rudd Labor government is focused on deliverable outcomes. The government is about providing preventative health programs and strategies and focusing on the trifecta of chronic disease caused by obesity, tobacco and the excessive consumption of alcohol. Sadly, an impending outcome of chronic disease is that the life expectancy of children in Australia today will be lower by two years if current levels of lifestyle abuse continue.

With facts like this underlying the importance of taking preventative action, government and community must work together to promote a healthy future for all Australians. The national Preventative Health Taskforce has been providing the government with evidence based advice on the framework for the preventative health partnerships between the Commonwealth and the states and territories and to develop a National Preventative Health Strategy. We have also seen the release of the task force paper entitled Australia: the healthiest country by 2020, which was created to kick-start debate on a number of targets which it says can be achieved by 2020. These are halting and reversing the rise in the number of people who are obese or overweight, reducing the prevalence of daily smoking to nine per cent or less, reducing the prevalence of harmful drinking for all Australians by 30 per cent and contributing to closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The paper outlines options for reform, rather than making final recommendations.

Finally, I want to specifically mention Inala Primary Care, the local primary care provider in my electorate of Oxley, of which I am a community board member and which is working very hard to deliver health and medical services within our community and to relieve the pressure on our hospital system. CEO Cathy Brown and her dedicated team of doctors, nurses and administrative staff are doing a great job, and the service they provide in primary health care is absolutely first class. The service began in 2007 and not only will continue to provide bulk-billing services but has opened up new opportunities for the University of Queensland to expand community teaching, promote healthier lifestyles and place greater emphasis on preventative health care to the wider community. This is a great initiative that forms part of an integrated Inala health hub, a one-stop shop for all our local health needs. It is also great to recognise the private sector as a place that can contribute to further developments in both primary and community health care, and I look forward to working with them to deliver results both now and into the future.

Preventative health care works and, over the past 25 years, the introduction of policies to discourage smoking has resulted in the use of tobacco products in Australia being at a historic low. I think everyone would agree that good health policy is also good economic policy. But let us not rest there, because much more needs to be done. The changes in lifestyle, policy and strategic policies needed in the future will require a concerted effort across the community, involving individuals, governments, industry, media and non-government organisations alike. Organisations such as Inala Primary Care are at the forefront of that primary healthcare delivery and are an essential part of the battle that we all face in dealing with one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. I commend the motion to the House.