Primary prevention, efforts made to stop people getting sick in the first place, are the best strategies to ensure good health outcomes. Not only is this the least expensive approach, it also preferences wellness over the treatment of illness. It produces the best possible health outcomes for the smallest spend.
Australia has done primary prevention well in the past.
The ‘Life. Be in it.’ campaign was incredibly successful locally and was exported to the US in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, Federal funding was ceased in 1981 to redirect money to elite sports, and, while the program went into a hiatus, it was picked up by private interests and continues (in a much diminished form) to increase physical activity today.
‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ was an equally successful campaign. It markedly changed people’s behaviour in the sun and was responsible for seeing reductions in skin cancer rates. As often happens with successful campaigns, the government took its foot off the pedal (assuming the problem was fixed), behaviour changed again and we saw increasing prevalence of sun- related skin damage.
As a result that campaign has been effectively re-launched as Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.
When AIDS blindsided the world in the mid 1980’s, Australia again responded with a very effective public education campaign:, The Grim Reaper Ads which encouraged people to wear condoms and not to share needles. AIDS affected every corner of the planet, but it left Australia relatively untouched… saving many individuals from a premature death or a shortened life time of health issues and saving the economy billions.
But primary prevention goes beyond education. All the measures that have been taken to reduce tobacco use… plain packaging, banning smoking in some places and relegating smokers to out-of the-way places, support to quit through the Quitline. All that has driven smoking rates in this country to 17%, from where we now lead the world in rates of non-smoking.
Councils have played their part… providing active transport options like great bike path networks, and, in bigger cities, providing end of trip facilities and integrating bike transport with other public transport options. They have provided gyms in the park, like what is currently available in Sherriff Park.
But there is more that can be done… like increasing the Walkability of suburbs.
Federally, we will push further for clear labelling of processed foods, taking the Traffic Light labeling system beyond a voluntary scheme to a mandatory one. We will push for greater availability of healthier choices for kids and the banning of junk food advertising being broadcast during prime viewing times for kids.
There is also a great deal of support for other measures, like a sugar tax.
In addition to what’s been mentioned, there are a great many more opportunities for the government to drive down health costs, and at the same time increase the general health of the population. But while we are focused on emergency department waiting times, and waiting times for elective surgery, our eye is off the real game.
The Greens don’t support cuts to health… but we do support a smarter spend. We recognise that an effective health system must be based on primary health care and preventative health care measures — such as health promotion, disease prevention, risk reduction and early intervention — in order to manage chronic disease, reduce ill-health and avoidable hospital admissions.
The Greens will work in government to achieve this and have established, clear policies on:
Health Care, and
Check them out by clicking the relevant link.
Greens policies, and all the examples of great primary health initiatives are innovation in action. Malcolm Turnbull is good at talking about innovation (and getting excited about it), but terrible at translating it into real world solutions.
Only the Greens are making sensible proposals in this space.
by Wendy Tubman
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.