New study backs Government's preventative approach to health
New findings quantifying the returns on spending on preventative health measures have backed the Federal Government's commitment to make prevention a fundamental component of a more effective and sustainable healthcare system.
25 November 2002
New study backs Government's preventative approach to healthNew findings quantifying the returns on spending on preventative health measures have backed the Federal Government's commitment to make prevention a fundamental component of a more effective and sustainable healthcare system.
A new, soon to be published study by The Department of Health and Ageing shows that spending on a range of illness prevention measures over the past three decades has resulted in big savings, such as $155 for every $1 spent on immunisation against measles since 1970.
The Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said for too long disease prevention has been the "poor cousin" of the health system, which traditionally had been geared to treating illness instead of promoting prevention.
"We need to focus on prevention activities that stop people getting sick," she said.
The Department of Health and Ageing study, "Returns on Investment in Public Health", shows the total return to the community over the past 30 years from investment in public health interventions in campaigns against tobacco consumption, heart disease, immunisation against measles, and measures against road trauma.
Speaking at the Australian Financial Review's summit on hospital and healthcare facilities in Sydney, Senator Patterson said the Federal Government was committed to putting more focus on prevention and individual responsibility.
"The Federal Government is placing more emphasis on preventive health measures, ensuring that prevention becomes the 'fourth pillar' of Medicare, alongside the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the Medicare Benefit Scheme and public hospital services," she said.
Senator Patterson said the Federal Government was committed to making prevention a fundamental component of a more effective and sustainable healthcare system
"Between 1970 and 2000, measles notifications fell from 100,000 to 2000 cases annually," she said.
"The introduction of subsidised immunisation for measles in 1970 saved an estimated 95 lives and has since averted an estimated four million cases.
"The estimated net present value of the measles programs has exceeded $8.4 billion for government and $9.1 billion for society.
"This is a staggering saving of $155 for every $1 spent on measles since 1970."
The study also found that smoking prevention had saved the government $344 million, or $2 for every $1 spent on anti-smoking programs over the past three decades.
Senator Patterson said the report's evidence backed the Government's preventative approach of encouraging people to take more responsibility for their own health through such simple actions as diet and exercise and better incorporating preventative measures into primary care.
Raising the profile of health promotion and illness prevention was one of the most effective ways of ensuring longer and healthier lives.
Senator Patterson said that prevention had to occur across all parts of the health system.
She said a practical example of the new approach was lifestyle scripts, which were designed to elevate lifestyle changes from an informal afterthought to the same level as other treatments, such as pharmaceuticals.
Senator Patterson said: "Visiting a doctor has become synonymous with getting a prescription (80%) and a prescription is synonymous with pharmaceuticals.
"I see no reason why a formal lifestyle change prescription cannot become part of a visit to the GP. It can include advice on dietary modification, quitting smoking and increasing physical activity. I am working with the National Prescribing Service to ensure this policy shift occurs," she said.
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