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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14902


Mr ZIMMERMAN (North Sydney) (16:46): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, I present the following reports, together with the minutes of proceedings: Bedtime reading: inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia, and the report on the inquiry into the 2017-18 annual reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing.

Reports made parliamentary papers in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr ZIMMERMAN: by leave—I'm pleased to be able to table the health committee's report, Bedtime reading: inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia. While there are many committee reports tabled in this place that might inadvertently provoke a good night's sleep, this is one report where it's actually our objective!

Sleep is a fundamental human need and, along with nutrition and physical exercise, is one of the pillars of good health. And yet currently four in every 10 Australians are not getting adequate sleep. While many people use limited sleep as a badge of honour, the reality is that very few people can operate optimally on little sleep. As a result of not prioritising sleep, many people are placing their health at risk as well as reducing their productivity at work. In 2016 and 2017, inadequate sleep was estimated to contribute to 3,017 deaths in Australia and to cost the economy $66.3 billion annually, mostly due to decreased productivity and reduced health and wellbeing.

An emerging issue is the potential for sleep to be affected by smartphones and internet usage. In particular, many children are having their sleep continually disrupted by their smartphones, and that can have negative impacts on childhood development, behaviour and performance during the day and at school. There is a strong message for parents in this report.

Some people experience inadequate sleep due to the presence of a sleep disorder, with obstructive sleep apnoea, or OSA, being one of the most prevalent. Without treatment, OSA can have serious health impacts, including weight gain, increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. In addition, the committee also found that, while not as prevalent as OSA, narcolepsy can have a debilitating impact on a person's quality of life. The committee heard some heart-wrenching testimony from people with narcolepsy and their parents. There is a need to improve the awareness of this condition, along with other rarer sleep disorders, and for further consideration of how treatment for people with narcolepsy is supported by government and the community.

This report makes a number of recommendations to government, which we hope will be a road map for health agencies, both state and federal. First and foremost, sleep health needs national prioritisation. It is as important as health messages about fitness, nutrition and smoking, and must be treated as one of the pillars of preventive health.

The committee makes other recommendations which are designed to improve support for those with sleep problems—from access to diagnosis to better education for primary health practitioners.

I commend the report to the House.

The inquiry into the 2017-18 annual reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing focused on hearing services and follows the committee's own 2017 inquiry into the hearing health and wellbeing of Australians.

The 2017 hearing health report was well received by those in the hearing health sectors and has been a catalyst for the Roadmap for Hearing Health, recently released by the federal government and COAG. Given the significant commitment and contributions by hearing health stakeholders that informed that 2017 hearing health inquiry, the committee was keen to examine the government's progress relating to its previous recommendations. The committee also looked at developments in hearing health policy and programs more broadly as contained in the annual reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing.

The committee's report has highlighted a range of areas where the government has acted, or intends to act, on the hearing health report recommendations, and these are very welcome. These features include additional funding to target the hearing health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; the funding of Sound Scouts, an online hearing assessments for school-age children, which was recommended by the committee; and the Roadmap for Hearing Health itself, which presents an overarching direction for hearing health services and priorities and represents a new commitment by state and federal governments to addressing many of the issues outlined in our report.

While these are all positive steps, a number of hearing health stakeholders expressed their disappointment that some of the hearing health report's recommendations are yet to be actioned. The committee has therefore reiterated many of its hearing health report recommendations that remain relevant today.

The committee also put forward six additional recommendations relating to hearing services and the NDIS, mandatory hearing screening for children, a pilot hearing and screening program for adults accessing the aged-care system, and research into balance disorders.

The Roadmap for Hearing Health should be supported by a clear delineation of jurisdictional responsibilities, time lines for implementation and funding.

I want to thank the stakeholders, individuals and government agencies who participated in both inquiries with such keen interest. I also particularly, as we come to the end of the 45th Parliament, thank my committee colleagues for their continued commitment to sleep health, hearing health and health policy more broadly. It has been a committee that's worked exceptionally well, and I pay particular tribute to my deputy chair, the member for Hindmarsh.

Finally, as these are the last reports we will be tabling in this parliament, I want to place on record the committee's thanks for the work of the committee staff, which has been exceptional during the course of this parliament, and we are in their debt. I commend both of these reports to the parliament.