Australian governments have maintained a strong focus on health policy over many years. Much of that focus has been cast as a reform agenda, addressing pressures facing health expenditure and public funding of health care; pressures on hospitals and the health workforce, and pressures arising from an ageing population, increasing chronic diseases affecting more of the population, and the rising costs of health treatments and technologies that manage those chronic diseases and prolong life.
Equally pressing is the evidence that Australia’s health policies, funding and service models are failing about one quarter of the population. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke and depression affect more than seven million Australians. The proportion of people with a chronic condition increases with age, and almost one in three Australians aged 45 or over have at least one chronic health condition. The nation cannot afford to ignore an issue that affects so many of its people.
A large part of the problem is that funding and service models are not geared towards preventative healthcare. Indeed, our lack of policy attention to this area means that access to preventative care is an optional extra, often limited to those with the financial and social capacities to access strategies that improve or maintain their good health. If we had maintained this same attitude towards the most prevalent health conditions of the past (infectious diseases), we would not have the economy or nation we now have today.