State of preventive health 2013

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) launched its State of Preventive Health 2013 report at a symposium in Parliament House, Canberra, on Friday 26 July.

The document can be downloaded at www.anpha.gov.au (select Resources).

The report is an overview of the health challenges facing Australians, particularly in relation to chronic disease, and the associated risk factors including tobacco consumption, harmful alcohol use and obesity.

It includes new analyses of data from the Australian Health Survey, examples of preventive health practice across Australia, and a Feature Essay of the economic value of prevention.

The report includes national figures, figures for each state and territory, and some international comparisons.

The headline figures show that 62.8 per cent of Australians are overweight or obese, 16.1 per cent of adults 18 years and over are daily smokers, and 19.5 per cent of adults consumed more than two standard drinks per day on average - thus exceeding the 2009 NHMRC guideline for lifetime risk of harm. Males have higher rates than females on all of these metrics.

For children 5 to 18 years, 18 per cent are overweight and 8 per cent obese.

The ANPHA report shows the highest rates of smoking and obesity to be in areas of greatest socioeconomic disadvantage.

Readers of the COAG Reform Council's reports released in May will recall that they began to tease out the inter-relationships between rurality and socioeconomic status. Those reports showed that, in 2011–12, an adult living in a disadvantaged area outside a major city was more likely to smoke (30.9 per cent) than if they lived in a major city (21.9 per cent).

Similarly, adults living in disadvantaged areas outside major cities have much higher rates of risky drinking (at 23.3 per cent) than those from a disadvantaged major city area (at 12.7 per cent).

It is to be hoped that ANPHA's published work will soon include detailed consideration of such rural-metropolitan comparisons as these. One particular matter of great significance for the health of people in rural and remote areas is the relative failure of health promotion work in rural and remote areas. The reasons for this need to be clarified and more effective preventive activity undertaken for rural areas.

Gordon Gregory
NRHA Executive Director

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