Chronic disease is Australia’s biggest health hurdle

Peter Terlato 5 July 2016

national health australia

New report shows national struggle with preventable chronic illnesses.

Chronic disease is the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia with one in two of us suffering from ailments such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The Australian Health Policy Collaboration recently released stats from its National Health Tracker, a report card on preventable chronic diseases, conditions and their risk factors in 2016.

In Australia, a male born in 2011–2013 can expect to live to the age of 80.1 years and a female to 84.3 years.

While life expectancy is high, the report suggests Australia is well behind comparable countries in tackling the risks and burdens associated with preventable chronic diseases.

63.4% of the country's adult population and 71.4% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population is overweight or obese. Almost a quarter (23%) of Australia's adult population has high blood pressure and this trend is growing.

More than two thirds (44.5%) of our adult population isn't meeting physical activity recommendations and almost a quarter (23.5%) of adults with mental illness smoke daily.

While Australia is one of the best performing countries for low rates of smoking - ranking 4th out of 34 OECD countries - overall data suggests we are not tracking well to hit 2025 health targets.

There has been a steady rise in the number of emergency department presentations (estimated alcohol injuries) over the years, with the latest data revealing 5.7 males in every 1,000 and 3.4 females in every 1,000.

Death rates from chronic diseases in adults (30-70 years) currently stands at 207 deaths per 100,000 people. This is well above the 2025 target of 166 in every 100,000 Australians.

Australia's suicide rate is 12 in every 100,000. The rate among Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders is almost double (20.3). This is well above the 2025 national target of 9.8 deaths in every 100,000 people.

There's also significant room for improvement in terms of health among the youth of Australia.

70.8% of children (5-11 years) and 91.5% of young people (12-17 years) aren't meeting physical activity recommendations, while almost three quarters (70.3%) of children (9-13 years) consume too much sugar.

The Australian Health Policy Collaboration supports a set of core principles aimed at reducing the impact of chronic diseases in Australia. This includes taking a systematic approach and employing evidence-based action to fight health inequality and disparity.

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