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Australia’s health: being accountable for prevention

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Stronger policy and a comprehensive approach to prevention is a good investment

The global action plan of the World Health Organization (WHO) for preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases1 aims to substantially reduce the burden of premature mortality caused by cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease by 2025, through action on nine targets measured by 25 indicators of performance.1 As a member state of the WHO, Australia is committed to the global action plan. However, we argue that the Australian government devotes insufficient attention to health policy, funding and program implementation for effective prevention. In this article, we review Australia’s progress against national non-communicable disease (NCD) targets set in 2009, and suggest that a more comprehensive approach is required.

NCDs are responsible for nine out of ten deaths in Australia, and often reduce people’s quality of life and ability to function. Tackling the growing personal, social and national economic impact of NCDs (also referred to as chronic diseases) is imperative, particularly in a country with an ageing population. Some population groups, such as Indigenous Australians and socio-economically disadvantaged people, are affected more than others.

Many NCDs share common, preventable risk factors such as smoking, harmful…