AUSTRALIAN of the Year Fiona Stanley has called for a greater focus on community health programs to prevent illness, particularly among young people.
“What frustrates me intensely is that everyone keeps on talking about the ageing of the population as being the major driver of future health costs,” said Dr Stanley, director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
“We are seeing marked increases in almost every single health problem in children and young people and an increase in risk-taking behaviour that is going to result in lifelong morbidity, not just in the last few years of life.
“I don’t know why people aren’t more anxious about that.
“That’s going to drive health care costs and other costs in the community.
“We’ve quadrupled asthma, we’ve trebled autism, type one diabetes has gone up four-fold in children in the last 15 years.
“Hazardous drinking by 12-year-old girls is higher than in 12-year-old boys and is now at nearly 20 per cent.
“Aren’t you scared about this stuff? I’m scared stiff about what this means.
“I don’t understand why people are just talking about ageing.”
She cited Australia’s world leading programs to contain HIV as a prime example of a good prevention program that leads to dramatic long-term cost savings.
Dr Stanley called on the State Government to quarantine community health programs from budget cuts and ideally to develop a whole of government strategy.
She was backed up by former AMA State president Simon Towler.
“Given the tone of the Clinical Senate meeting, I think there is universal endorsement for those concepts,” Dr Towler said.
“If you want to look at financial sustainability, you have to try and contain the burden of disease.”
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