This paper identifies strategic priorities for taking action to prevent chronic diseases. It is the second report by the Mitchell Institute on this issue. The first report, Chronic diseases in Australia: the case for changing course, mapped out the social, economic and health costs of chronic diseases to the Australian community, as well as identifying the evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of preventing chronic diseases.

Chronic diseases in Australia: Blueprint for preventive action moves beyond the evidence to provide a framework for action. The vision of this Blueprint is to reduce the impact and incidence of chronic diseases through preventive interventions. The desired outcomes, against which progress should be measured, comprise:

  • Healthy lives: improved health status for all populations.
  • Healthy children: a healthy future for our children.
  • Healthy communities: more liveable and socially connected communities.
  • Healthy economies: increased economic participation and productivity.

To achieve this vision, action will be required on many fronts. This recognises that chronic diseases have many shared risk factors and determinants, including health behaviours (such as smoking and physical inactivity), biomedical factors (such as high blood pressure and depression), and social and environmental determinants (such as early life conditions and socio-economic status). Taking preventive action early includes tackling the underlying social determinants of poor health (primordial prevention) and implementing strategies to reduce specific risk factors for chronic diseases (primary prevention). Preventive actions to reduce the disease burden for high-risk populations, including people with risk factors or in the early stages of chronic diseases, are also vitally important.

Seven core principles have been identified that shape the actions we propose to reduce the impact and incidence of chronic diseases:

1. Systemic approach: focus on common risk factors and determinants, not individual diseases.

2. Evidence-based action: act now using best available evidence and continue to build evidence.

3. Tackling health inequity: work to improve and redress inequities in outcomes.

4. National agenda with local action: build commitment and innovation with local action.

5. A life course approach: intervene early and exploit prevention opportunities at all ages and across generations.

6. Shared responsibility: encourage complementary actions by all groups.

7. Responsible partnerships: avoid ceding policy influence to vested interests.

This Blueprint identifies three strategic priorities, each of which includes specified actions.

The first strategic priority is to drive healthy behaviours and healthy environments focussing on tackling the risk factors and social determinants that contribute to the burden of chronic diseases.

It involves setting measurable objectives and assessing preventive interventions in order to determine priority actions for implementation.

The second strategic priority is to create accountability for action and monitoring progress. Areas for action include Australian implementation of the World Health Organization targets and indicators to prevent chronic diseases, as well as independent reporting.

The third strategic priority is to generate community support and action on prevention. Many factors that are important in preventing chronic diseases require action by groups outside government. Community support is also essential to achieving success, including the development of solutions that meet local circumstances and priorities.

Responsibility for taking action on preventing chronic diseases must be shared. Sustainable change requires partnerships and action by individuals and families, communities, the non-government sector and governments.

The Mitchell Institute will work with partner organisations to implement the strategic priorities included in this Blueprint. Work is already underway to auspice the development of an Australian set of indicators and targets that are consistent with the international target of a 25 per cent reduction in premature mortality from chronic diseases by 2025. Following the release of this Blueprint, the Mitchell Institute will continue to build a coalition of partner organisations committed to taking action on preventing chronic diseases.

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