Development of a National Preventive Health Strategy

COTA Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback to the Australian Government Department of Health (Department) on its recently released consultation paper, Development of the National Preventive Health Strategy. The paper speaks to what older Australians agree is a long-awaited area of reform and one that, if supported by the appropriate policy drivers and levels of resourcing, holds great promise for facilitating all Australians to proactively enjoy and maintain good health and wellbeing and live well and connected to community life. Given the prevalence of mental ill health, chronic and infectious diseases and the increasing disparity of the impacts of poor health and disability experienced within our society, the realisation of an effective national preventive health and wellbeing strategy is likely to be affirmed as the fundamental success ‘pillar’ for the social, economic and political efficacy of Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan.

COTA Australia agrees with the Department’s statement that [such a] strategy presents a powerful opportunity for Australia to build a sustainable prevention system for the future … ensuring all Australians are living well for longer. We are also in agreement that our nation’s preventive health strategy should be grounded in a firm appreciation of the central importance of the social determinants of health, embrace a whole of life course approach and be informed by best available evidence. In addition, we concur that an effective national preventive health and wellbeing strategy must comprise cohesive and collaborative multi intersectoral approaches which are translatable to needs based community or place-based responses reflective of the individual and group diversity therein. COTA Australia provides in principle support for several key concepts promoted in the paper as being essential to the formulation of a national preventive health strategy.

COTA’s own research COTA State of the Older Nation Report highlights that older Australians prize health (preventive health, oral/dental health and healthcare services) and independence very highly. Moreover, two thirds (66 percent) of those surveyed stated that access to preventive health services would make a fair bit or a great deal of difference to them personally (page 9), delivering better outcomes and helping to unlock an improved quality of life for them and other older Australians. We are highly supportive of all Australians at every stage of life having ready access to a well-designed, accessible and affordable preventive health and wellbeing system that not only assists them to stay well but prevents or mitigates problems from arising in the first place.

From our perspective, the strategy needs to precisely articulate its purpose and explain how this will be advanced over the coming decade to ensure the nation a more integrated, evidence based, knowledge driven response to maximising preventive health and wellbeing outcomes for Australians across their life span. A stronger definition of purpose will ground a more informed understanding of how the strategy will traverse the space between where we are and where we can confidently expect to be by 2030.