Health risk factors in Australia
Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research has found that in Australia:
- 1 in 7 adults smoke daily
- 1 in 4 children and 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese
- more than half of adults and 2 in 3 children don’t meet the physical activity guidelines
- most people don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables and eat too much discretionary food.
Risk factors like these all increase the risk of developing ill-health. Almost half of Australians have one or more chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
We can prevent many of these conditions from developing, or reduce their impact, by creating systems and environments that support people to live a healthy lifestyle.
What we’re doing about preventive health
We have developed the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021–2030.
The strategy will improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians at all stages of life, through a systems-based approach to prevention that addresses the wider determinants of health, reduces health inequities and decreases the overall burden of disease.
The strategy aims to ensure that:
- all Australians have the best start in life
- all Australians live in good health and wellbeing for as long as possible
- health equity is achieved for priority populations
- investment in preventive health is increased.
The strategy includes seven system enablers and seven focus areas. The enablers outline what is needed for a stronger a prevention system, and the focus areas highlight areas that require critical action to reduce risks of poor health and disease.
We consulted extensively while developing the strategy. Read the:
- draft strategy, which was open for public comment in early 2021
- consultation paper, which outlines the key themes from consultation during 2019 and 2020
- communiques from each consultation workshop.
A steering committee provided us with expert advice from across different health fields as we finalised the strategy.
The strategy is part of Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan and will guide our work over the next 10 years.
It builds on many other policies, guidelines and strategies that aim to prevent disease and improve health and wellbeing.
Health is currently developing a blueprint for action to guide the implementation of the strategy over the coming years.
Population health strategies
We have developed tailored strategies to guide us over the long term as we work to improve the health and wellbeing of:
- men and boys, with the National Men’s Health Strategy 2020–2030
- women and girls, with the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030.
The strategies outline our national approach to:
- improving the health of men and boys and women and girls – particularly those at greatest risk of poor health
- reducing inequities between different population groups.
We developed these strategies to build on:
We are also working to improve the health of children and young people, with the National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People 2020–2030.
This plan aims to ensure that children and young people, can fulfil their potential, and are healthy safe and thriving, regardless of background or circumstances.
Supporting preventive health
We help Australians stay healthy through:
- early detection programs such as cancer screening and newborn bloodspot screening
- free immunisation to protect people against disease
- the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions to prevent and reduce chronic conditions
- the whole-of-government National Obesity Strategy to tackle overweight and obesity
- a whole-of-government drug strategy to reduce, prevent and treat drug use
- the National Tobacco Strategy to reduce smoking rates
- the National Alcohol Strategy to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm
- education and awareness campaigns such as our anti-smoking campaigns to promote a healthy lifestyle
- physical activity guidelines, which outline how much and what kind of activity people should do according to their age and circumstances
- dietary guidelines, which recommend eating a variety of nutritious foods from the 5 food groups
- the Health Star Rating system to help Australians make healthier food choices at the checkout
- the Healthy Food Partnership, which encourages food businesses to reduce sugar, salt and saturated fats from processed food
- mental health and suicide prevention policies, strategies and plans to ensure people can access mental health support and to reduce suicide rates
- communicable diseases tracking and response coordination to prevent their spread
- support for pregnant women to keep themselves and their babies healthy
- Men’s sheds to give men a safe place to make friends, share activities, talk, and access health information and resources.
We also fund research and screening programs:
- Various population-based health screening programs look for early signs of certain diseases.
- The Research Data Infrastructure initiative funds national research data infrastructure to support medical research.
- The Preventive and Public Health Research initiative supports targeted research on new ways to tackle risk factors for chronic and complex diseases
- The Boosting Preventive Health Research initiative invested $10 million in research to help promote good health practice, prevent disease and keep people out of hospital.
Injury is a major cause of preventable death and disability in Australia. We are working to reduce the frequency of injury across all age groups.
National Injury Prevention Strategy
A National Injury Prevention Strategy helps governments and non-government organisations embed safe practices in programs and policies.
This increases safety in our environment, the products we use and our communities to reduce injury.
We fund water safety initiatives to reduce water-related accidents and deaths, including the National Recreation Safety Program, which provides funding to:
We are also observers at the Australian Water Safety Council, which provides a collective voice for Australia’s leading water safety organisations.
We support the Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA) to improve safety in Australia's alpine areas. This enables everyone to safely enjoy alpine activities.
Who we work with
We work with many partners on preventive health measures.
We fund agencies, universities and research bodies to carry out studies, surveys, reporting and analysis. The studies’ insights are essential in helping us:
- plan and develop policy
- make decisions about preventive health
- reduce and prevent chronic disease
- help you manage your health.
We work closely with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to publish datasets about health in Australia.
We were also a member of the Social, Health and Welfare Unit of the Data Integration Partnership for Australia, which built and expanded critical data assets.