Australians could gain an extra six years life expectancy with renewed efforts in health: World Health Report
The latest annual report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that preventive health measures could gain Australians an extra six years life expectancy.
1 November 2002
Australians could gain an extra six years life expectancy with renewed efforts in health: World Health ReportThe latest annual report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that preventive health measures could gain Australians an extra six years life expectancy.
World Health Report 2002 is one of the largest research projects ever undertaken by the WHO and provides details of the heath status and expenditure of all its member countries.
Welcoming the report, Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said it underpins the Government's key message on preventive health.
"The potential for prevention is greater than commonly thought, and prevention needs to occur across all parts of the health system," Senator Patterson said.
"One of the main findings of interest to us in the World Health Report 2002 is that Australians can gain another six years of healthy life if governments and individuals make a combined effort against a small number of health risks.
"Australia's life expectancy is already among the highest in the world. The Report indicates that, at 71.6 years of healthy life expectancy, we are surpassed only by Japan, Switzerland and Sweden. (Canada is 69.9, New Zealand 70.3, and the United States 67.6).
"This result reflects the Government's commitment to making 'prevention' a fundamental component of our health system.
"We already have excellent examples of this positive effect of preventive programs, such as our measures to reduce smoking.
"Australia has played a lead role in this area, assisting WHO to negotiate an international treaty to control tobacco production and consumption. That role acknowledges our domestic achievements in tobacco control and the assistance we are providing to developing countries in our region.
"Our efforts on tobacco have resulted in a reduction of smoking rates from 24 per cent in 1995 to 19.5 per cent in 2001 - a significant achievement that few other countries have matched," Senator Patterson said.
Senator Patterson said the WHO Report also highlighted the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in industrialised nations, including Australia.
"I am particularly concerned about this aspect of the Report. Obesity is a major health risk factor for many serious chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers," Senator Patterson said.
"Successful risk factor reduction must involve government, the community and individuals taking their share of responsibility. Obesity must be tackled through physical activity and nutrition initiatives and major differences can be made if we work together. National initiatives like Eat Well Australia and Active Australia are examples of how we can contribute.
"The Commonwealth will undertake further work on obesity prevention in partnership with states and territories because as the Report emphasises, the challenge is to apply preventive health measures broadly across the population and health system.
"We are actively incorporating prevention activities in general practice, in the areas of smoking, nutrition, alcohol and physical activity.
"It is also important to recognise that while the risks associated with communicable diseases in Australia are comparatively low, this is because of successful action by the Government in boosting immunisation rates and emphasising preventive action to control the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. It also reveals the key role of partnership bodies such as the National Communicable Disease Network of Australia.
"I am pleased that the Report's author, Dr Alan Lopez, will be returning to Australia in January to establish a Centre of Excellence in Burden of Disease Analysis at the University of Queensland.
"My Department will work closely with Dr Lopez, building on existing partnerships with the Australian Network of Academic Public Health Institutions, the National Public Health Partnership, and non-government organisations including the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance to develop strategies to reduce risks to health in Australia and the region," Senator Patterson said.
Dr Alan Lopez will outline the findings of World Health Report 2002 and what it means for Australia at the University of Queensland on Monday 4 November.
World Health Report 2002 can be accessed on the internet at: www.who.int./entity/whr/2002-10-30
Media Contact: Randal Markey, Office of Senator Patterson 0417 694 520