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”.
- FITNESS AUSTRALIA COVID-19 FITNESS INDUSTRY IMPACT REPORT https://bpfitnessaustraliaproduction.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/uploaded_file/file/472634/COVID-19_Fitness_Industry_Impact_report_F.pdf
- SPORT AND RECREATION 2019 INDUSTRY REFERENCE COMMITTEE INDUSTRY SKILLS FORECAST https://www.aqia.org.au/industry-skills-forecast/
- Fitness Industry Economic Contribution Report https://fitness.org.au/articles/fitness-industry-economic-contribution-reports/fitness-industry-economic-contribution-report/21/49/19
- Preventive health: How much does Australia spend and is it enough? Canberra: Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education; 2017. , .
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National health expenditure data cubes – current and constant prices 1985–86 to 2013–14 [dataset]. Canberra: AIHW; 2014.
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. OECD health statistics 2016: Frequently requested data [dataset]. Paris: OECD; 2016.
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. OECD statistics: Health expenditure and financing [dataset]. Paris: OECD; 2016.
- Developing a strategy for preventative health: A framework. Melbourne: Monash University Centre for Health Economics; 2006. .
- Quantifying national spending on wellness and prevention. Adv Health Econ Health Serv Res. 2008; 19: 1– 24. , , , .
- Towards a comprehensive estimate of national spending on prevention. BMC Public Health. 2007; 7: 252. , , , .
- The Hunt for health savings: Prevention is better than cure. The Sydney Morning Herald; [updated 2017 Jan 19; cited 2017 Sep 6]. Available from: www.smh.com.au/comment/the-hunt-for-health-savings-prevention-is-better-than-cure-20170119-gtud48.html. .
- Australia’s health: being accountable for prevention. Med J Aust. 2016; 206: 223– 5. , , .
- Priority setting in healthcare towards guidelines for the program budgeting and marginal analysis framework. Expert Rev Pharmacoecon Outcomes Res. 2010; 10: 539– 52. , , , , , .
- Some economics of health promotion; what we know, don’t know and need to know before deciding how much to spend on promoting the public’s health. Harvard Health Policy Rev. 2006; 7: 21– 31. , .
- Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Prevention (ACE-prevention): Final report. Brisbane: University of Queensland & Melbourne, Deakin University; 2010. , , , et al.
- Review of Australian health economic evaluation – 245 interventions: what can we say about cost effectiveness? Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2008; 6: 9. , , .
- Five-hundred life-saving interventions and their cost-effectiveness. Risk Anal. 1995; 15: 369– 90. , , , et al.
- Systematic review on the cost-effectiveness of public health interventions for HIV prevention in industrialized countries. AIDS. 1998; 12(Suppl A): S231– 8. , .
- The economics of primary prevention of cardiovascular disease – a systematic review of economic evaluations. Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2007; 5: 5. , , .
Fitness Graduates in Action
Check out how Fit Education Graduates are making differences in people’s lives and kicking goals on Fit Education tube. If you found this article interesting you may also enjoy Fitness is an Essential Service, or Fitness Industry on the Rise. Learn more about health policy in the Diploma of Fitness.
If you are interested in studying to work in the Fitness Industry, you can schedule a phone call with our Careers Adviser, just click in the image below.