Key Strategic Directions for 2005-06
Focus on the Main Lifestyle Causes of Preventable Disease
On 10 February 2006, the Council of Australian Governments announced the Australian Better Health Initiative (ABHI), a four year, national program, developed to refocus the health system to promote good health and reduce the burden of chronic disease. The ABHI, which commenced on 1 July 2006, promotes healthy lifestyles, supports the early detection of those at risk of chronic disease, assists people to adopt healthier behaviours, encourages active patient self management and improves integration and coordination of care. The Department coordinated the development of the National Implementation Plan for the ABHI in consultation with State and Territory health departments.
The Department also implemented a number of other activities to increase physical activity and healthy eating in Australian adults and children, including continuing the Building a Healthy and Active Australia Initiative to address childhood obesity. Activities under this initiative included:
- providing $1,500 Healthy School Communities grants for community organisations associated with schools (including Parents and Citizens Associations and school canteens) to initiate healthy eating activities. A total of 4,337 grants were paid in the 2005-06 financial year;
- continuing the national Go for 2 & 5® fruit and vegetable campaign. A second phase of advertising occurred between May and June 2006; and
- launching the national Get Moving physical activity campaign in February 2006, targeting children aged 5-12 years, teenagers, parents and carers. Activities involved television, print, radio and online advertisements, as well as a dedicated web site supported by a range of media activities and events across the country.
The Department implemented strategies to improve dietary intake and increase levels of physical activity, including funding Walk to Work and Walk Safely to School Days, as healthy alternatives to travelling in private vehicles, while promoting health, road safety and environmental awareness.
The Department also continued the implementation of initiatives from the National Obesity Taskforce’s national action plan, Healthy Weight 2008: Australia’s Future – the National Action Agenda for Children and Young People and Their Families. These initiatives included the provision of funding for the Barwon-West Sentinel Site for obesity prevention, together with further promotion and dissemination of the Physical Activity Recommendations for children and youth. The Australian Health Ministers’ Conference announced the Healthy Weight for Adults and Older Australians, a national action plan that focuses on reducing overweight and obesity in Australian adults. These agendas provide a whole-of-population approach to maintaining healthy weight.
During 2005-06, the Department contributed to the development of research and guidelines focusing on the lifestyle causes of preventable disease. This included the contribution of funding to develop and implement a Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey in association with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Food and Grocery Council. The Department called for expressions of interest to undertake the survey in November 2005 and based on the submissions received, issued a select request to tender in February 2006. Data from the survey will be used to assess changes in food, nutrition, energy intake and expenditure. The data will also be used by governments to assess progress against existing recommendations and guidelines on diet and physical activity, and to develop policies on food and health promotion and intervention programs to address rising levels of overweight and obesity. The survey is expected to be implemented in 2006-07.
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The Department also funded the development of new Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand including Recommended Dietary Intakes
(NRVs) by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which were released on 3 May 2006. NRVs are used by health professionals such as dieticians and doctors, and provide a range of recommended daily intake levels of nutrients required by individuals and population groups, to achieve good health and avoid deficiency states. They are also used by universities and nutrition researchers, by the food industry in developing and assessing new food products, and by the Australian Government in setting policy and legislation (such as for food labelling) to help the public make informed choices.
A number of activities aimed at reducing tobacco consumption, alcohol misuse and the use of illicit drugs were implemented by the Department in 2005-06. Under the National Tobacco Strategy 2004-2009, the Department, in collaboration with State and Territory governments, implemented health promotion, education and program initiatives. From 1 March 2006, all manufactured and imported tobacco product packaging must be printed with new graphic health warning labels. According to the 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey
, there has been a decline of two percentage points in the proportion of the population aged 14 and over who smoke daily, between 2001 and 2004, to 17.4 per cent.
The Department has also led the national approach in reducing alcohol misuse, through the development of the National Alcohol Strategy 2006-2009, which was endorsed by the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy in May 2006. This document provides a plan for addressing, at all levels of government and within the community sector, alcohol related issues such as intoxication and the drinking culture of Australians. Globally, alcohol-related death and disability accounts for 4.0 per cent of the total cost to life and longevity (footnote
The Department managed the second phase of the National Drugs Campaign
, which was launched in April 2005 and continued throughout 2005-06 with media and resource dissemination activities. The campaign was directed at preventing young people from using drugs and highlighted the harmful effects of illicit drug use. An evaluation of this phase of the campaign found it to be successful, in terms of reaching the intended audience, and in influencing individual attitudes toward illicit drug use. The evaluation was conducted independently, in consultation with the Department.
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Disease Prevention and Protection
The Department’s ongoing support of screening programs has provided improvements in cancer and screening rates. Since the inception of the National Cervical Screening Program in 1991, incidence rates of cervical cancer for women 20 to 69 years have fallen from 17.2 cases per 100,000 population to 8.9 cases per 100,000 population in 2002, a reduction of approximately 48 per cent (Source: AIHW  Cervical Screening in Australia 2003-2004
The participation of 56.1 per cent of women in the target age group of 50 to 69 years in screening through BreastScreen Australia in the two years 2002-03, is a small decrease from 57.1 per cent in 2001-02. However, the participation rate for women in inner regional areas (58.7 per cent), outer regional areas (60.1 per cent) and remote areas (59.4 per cent) was significantly higher than the national average. The participation rate for Indigenous women was 35.9 per cent and while this is lower than the national average, it is an increase from 33.1 per cent in 2001-02 (Source: AIHW  BreastScreen Australia Monitoring Report 2002-2003
In addition, the Department progressed or completed a number of activities in 2005-06 aimed at preventing disease. The completion of the catch-up component of the National Childhood Pneumococcal Vaccination Program for children born between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2004 was responsible for over 77 per cent of eligible children being up-to-date for pneumococcal vaccine by the end of 2005. The Department also implemented the National Childhood Varicella Program and replacement of oral polio vaccine with inactivated polio vaccine.
The Department worked with State and Territory governments, community organisations, medical professionals and researchers to prepare for the rollout of a National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Under this phase of the National Program, people turning 55 and 65 years of age between 1 May 2006 and 30 June 2008 will be invited to complete a simple, yet highly effective, faecal occult blood test in the privacy of their own home and send it to a pathology laboratory for analysis. Nearly one million people will be offered screening during this phase of the program, which is due to commence in August 2006. The program had originally been scheduled to commence in May 2006; however the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council asked for a series of bilateral discussions on implementation issues which then led to some delay.
The Department has commenced the first stage of a four year program to increase awareness of chlamydia, improve its surveillance and commence a pilot testing program, to be conducted under the National HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategies 2005-08. In late 2005, the Department undertook a call for grant submissions under the Chlamydia Targeted Grants Program (Stage 1). Funding will be provided for a range of innovative projects targeting high risk groups including young people (16-25 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and homosexually active men. Chlamydia projects commenced in late June 2006 and the Ministerial announcement of successful projects occurred in August 2006.
The Department has supported the prevention and reduction of illicit drug use under the Community Partnerships Initiative (CPI). This initiative encourages community ownership of, and participation in, activities which address illicit drug issues at a local level. To date, the Department has funded 224 community based organisations across Australia, to implement a broad range of drug prevention activities.
The Department also developed and implemented programs to enhance access to treatment and care for people with hepatitis C under the National Hepatitis C Strategy 2005-08. This strategy has included a focus on hard to reach groups (such as injecting drug users) and identified and coordinated the implementation of improved surveillance mechanisms for hepatitis C.
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Improving National Population Health Capacity
In 2005-06, the Department’s Public Health Education and Research Program (PHERP) assisted in improving national population health capacity by building the skills of the public health workforce, principally through funding high quality, postgraduate public health education and research training.
The Department engaged two consultants to review PHERP in 2004-05, to ensure its continuing relevance to addressing Australia's population health needs. In 2005-06, the review's findings were accepted by the Government and a number of key findings were implemented by the Department, with the remainder scheduled for implementation in 2006-07. One key finding implemented by the Department in 2005-06 was the targeting of three national public health priority areas: obesity and nutrition; biosecurity and disaster response; and Indigenous public health.
In addition, training and support has been identified as a priority of the National Drug Strategy 2004-2009 and as such the Department has developed and implemented a number of capacity building programs in 2005-06. These include an Indigenous National Alcohol and other Drug National Train the Trainer Program, which is the first stage of a comprehensive and strategic approach to developing a workforce that is educated in the cultural aspects of Indigenous drug and alcohol service delivery, and capacity building in Australia. The From Go to Whoa 2006 - Psychostimulants Training Program for Health Professionals comes under the National Psychostimulants Initiative, and is designed for health professionals who are undergoing continuing education in the treatment of people with psychostimulant-related problems. The Department is currently exploring options for implementing the package in 2006-07.
The Department also funded workforce capacity building projects under the National Comorbidity Initiative. This included the mental health screening tool (PsyCheck) implementation trial which assisted alcohol and drug practitioners to undertake screening and intervention for mental health disorders among their clients.
Babor, T., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G., Giesbrecht, G.K., Grube, J., Grunewald, P., Hill, L., Holder, H., Homel, R., Osterberg, E., Rehm, J., Room, R., Rossow, I. (2003) Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity, World Health Organization and Oxford University Press.
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