As in other developed countries, chronic conditions in Australia are large contributors to illness, disability and premature mortality. They are estimated to contribute a significant proportion of the burden of disease and injury overall, and for particular population groups (Mathers et al. 2000; WHO 2015). With respect to deaths, the five disease groups comprising cancers and other neoplasms, cardiovascular diseases, injuries, neurological conditions and respiratory diseases accounted for more than 81% of all Years of Life Lost in 2010 (AIHW 2015). The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases identifies tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol as shared risk factors (WHO 2013).
Chronic conditions are variously defined, and there is no agreed definition internationally. As a group, they tend to have hidden antecedents, a significant latency period, and a protracted clinical course; multifactorial aetiology, including common risk factors and determinants; and are rarely cured completely (Thacker et al. 1995; AIHW 2012). The notion of chronicity is reflected in gradual change over time, asynchronous evolution and heterogeneity in population and individual susceptibility