Make prevention a priority

Published 21 March 2023

Twitter: @oliverdietitian

LinkedIn: olivercanfell749

For the first time, Australia is facing the possibility that our children will live shorter lives than their parents. Our current healthcare system is built to treat disease almost exclusively, rather than prevent it, and it is overwhelmed. Perversely, health systems are rewarded for treating sick patients; the more sick patients who are treated, the more funding a health service receives.

Current public health expenditure is less than 2% of the national health budget, yet they are our most efficient health purchases, often saving up to $27 for every $1 spent. The problem is that public health and prevention is a difficult political pill to swallow – benefits take years to realise and reach beyond political cycles – and they are difficult to count and measure, unlike emergency waiting times, elective surgery rates and hospital re-admissions. Digital technology and data are a superpower to unlocking new ways to count prevention, and precisely deliver interventions to the highest risk populations. With investment in digital healthcare research, we can innovate new ‘predict-prevent’ models of care that are measurable and improve the sustainability of healthcare for our next, likely sicker, generation. There is already significant political will with the recent release of the National Preventive Health Strategy and National Obesity Strategy, where data and digital technology are cited as key enablers to success. Now is the time to partner, act and invest to make prevention a priority.

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