Health is Wealth.

Health is Wealth – In the recent 11th of May Federal Budget, the Treasurer stated that addressing the nation’s mental health ‘is a clear national priority’.

This follows on from consistent and public calls from the Prime Minister, Federal Health Minister, State Premiers and Chief Health Officers all urging Australians to maintain or begin an exercise program during COVID-19 lockdowns to look after and maintain their mental health. These calls reflect the accepted fact that exercise plays a critical role in improving both the physical health and mental wellbeing of Australians.

Despite this recognition, the Federal Budget presented was heavy on addressing mental health issues as an “after the event” reaction rather than a preventative health policy. The provision of services for Australians experiencing mental health issues should be supported, but the logic of investing so much public funding once the problem has surfaced rather than investing and preventing the problems in the first place should be questioned.

Similarly, billions are to be spent on funding hospitals and rehabilitative health (A record $467 billion over the forward estimates to deliver the essential health services), yet there is again only very minimal spending on preventative health (A $1.9 million to fund the creation of a platform to support a stronger and more effective preventive health system in Australia.) (5,6)

It is surprising that our leaders and Treasury bureaucrats are yet to realise the savings to the Budget that can be generated through investing in preventative health programs. Data, research and history have continually shown a four-fold return on investment to the health budget. Despite this, the major parties continue to overlook the most logical opportunity to reduce health spending and improve the health of Australians: prevention. Promotion of health and well-being in our communities is bizarrely somehow seen as less important and valuable. But it does not have to be that way.

The value for money argument for prevention is strong but investing in prevention is not just about budget savings. It is about building stronger families and communities. It improves people’s well-being, keeps them out of hospitals, and allows them to spend more time doing what they love. And we have the means and knowledge to make this happen. If there was a drug that had this level of efficacy, there would be clamouring to get it included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Our leaders need to start planning and investing in a preventative health strategy for the benefit of our nation NOW. The current rehabilitative approach of fixing sick people is not in Australia’s best interests. They need to work with community organisations, industry associations and interested stakeholders to make this happen. It will lead to a healthier Australian community, and free up taxpayers’ money to spend in other worthwhile causes such as education and infrastructure.

A focus on prevention aligns with the values of efficiency, cost-savings and supporting individuals to make good decisions. We can provide a platform to encourage our community to exercise more and eat well – the way to do that is through ensuring availability of parks and bike lanes, ensuring access to healthy foods and creating a culture of activity. And the private health insurance industry should be solidly behind prevention to stop, or at least delay, people from getting sick and requiring payouts.

Bill Gates “treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable”.

Benjamin Franklin “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

References

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  2. SPORT AND RECREATION 2019 INDUSTRY REFERENCE COMMITTEE INDUSTRY SKILLS FORECAST  https://www.aqia.org.au/industry-skills-forecast/
  3. Fitness Industry Economic Contribution Report https://fitness.org.au/articles/fitness-industry-economic-contribution-reports/fitness-industry-economic-contribution-report/21/49/19
  4. https://fitness.org.au/articles/most-recent/it-s-time-to-give-norm-a-lazarus-with-triple-bypass-reinvention/50/2236/184
  5. https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/budget-2020-21-record-health-and-aged-care-investment-under-australias-covid-19-pandemic-plan
  6. https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/preventive-health-foundations-for-the-national-preventive-health-strategy
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53914/
  8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hpja.165
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  20. Vos TCarter RBarendregt J, et al. Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Prevention (ACE-prevention): Final reportBrisbane: University of Queensland & Melbourne, Deakin University; 2010.
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