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Health promotion: A political imperative
journal contributionposted on 17.03.2020, 00:00 by JA Smith, M Herriot, C Williams, Jennifer JuddJennifer Judd, K Griffiths, Roxanne BainbridgeRoxanne Bainbridge
As we head towards a federal election in Australia, it is timely to think about the types of health policies, programs and research that are required to sustain a healthy, safe, productive, equitable and thriving society. There is strong evidence to suggest that investment in health promotion and prevention can make a significant contribution in this regard.1,2 This evidence also suggests that prevention interventions are cost-effective in comparison to hospital care, and therefore a sensible economic choice to assist with both improving population health and reducing health inequities across Australia.3–6 Yet, only 1.34% of Australian health care expenditure relates to preventive health, placing it well below other OECD countries, such as New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.6 In this instance, the current spend equates to just over $2 billion annually.6 To put this into perspective, a recent report examining the social and economic costs of alcohol consumption in the Northern Territory was estimated to be $1.38 billion per year.7 This demonstrates that the current government investment in health promotion and prevention is clearly missing the mark – and quite spectacularly. Though it is difficult to estimate what the exact increase in investment should be, particularly when also considering the significant and well documented health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a minimum spend should be approximately 5-6% of the health budget.2 This editorial draws on contemporary evidence and expert commentary to explain why health promotion needs to be considered a political imperative, now more than ever.