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Biggest investment in Australia’s history to fight preventable diseases



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Media Release

26 October 2010 Prime Minister Minister for Health and Ageing

Biggest investment in Australia’s history to fight preventable diseases

Campaigns to combat obesity, drug and alcohol abuse and smoking will be key priorities for a new National Preventative Health Agency if legislation is supported in Parliament this week.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Health Minister, Nicola Roxon today joined forces with peak health groups to call on the Parliament to support the historic Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill 2010.

The Agency is central to the Gillard Government's reform strategy to improve Australia's health system.

For the first time, the Commonwealth Government will take majority funding responsibility for public hospitals and full responsibility for primary care.

The reforms will provide a strong incentive for the Commonwealth to provide better primary care and prevention services to take pressure off our hospitals.

Potentially avoidable diseases affect the lives of millions of Australians. They also account for around 20 per cent of the total health care expenditure.

Currently, smoking kills about 15,000 Australians each year and costs Australia $31.5 billion each year.

More than 60% of Australians aged over 18 are overweight or obese.

And more than 813,000 Australians aged 15 years and older were hospitalised for alcohol-related injury and disease between 1996 and 2005.

For the first time, the new National Preventative Health Agency will advise all Health Ministers and help coordinate prevention campaigns across the country.

The Agency will bring together some of the best expertise in Australia to gather, analyse and disseminate the latest evidence on ways to prevent chronic disease.

The Agency's impact will help take pressure off Australian hospitals as more people adopt healthier ways of living and reduce the risk of preventable illnesses.

It is part of the Gillard Government's $872.1 million commitment over six years towards the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health.

This is the largest investment ever made by an Australian Government to support health prevention strategies.

The Government has allocated $17.6 million to establish and operate the Agency, if the legislation is passed.

The Agency will be responsible for three specific programs under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health, which are:

- National social marketing programs relating to tobacco and obesity ($102 million over four years); - A preventive health research fund focussing on translational research ($13.1 million over four years); and - A preventative workforce audit and strategy ($0.5 million over two years).

This is in addition to the Government's commitment, following discussions with the Australian Greens and Senator Xenophon, to allocate an additional $50 million to the National Binge Drinking Strategy. The Agency will put in place national guidelines and standards to guide preventative health. It will also form partnerships with industry, non-government and community groups to

promote healthier lifestyles. The Government's comprehensive approach to tobacco control, with sustained and coordinated actions, have seen smoking rates cut from 30.5 per cent in 1988 to 16.6 per cent in 2007. Campaigns such as Measure Up have already helped Australians recognise the link between their waist measurement and their chances of developing chronic disease. It is expected that once the Bill passes, the Agency will be operational in early 2011.

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