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Report card points to need for national prevention agenda

Australia is facing increased rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as dangerously high levels of salt and sugar consumption in adults, a report card on the nation’s health has found.

Released by Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University, Australia’s Health Tracker found the nation is failing to prevent ailments such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

More than 50 health organisations worked together on the assessment in an effort to warn governments and industries that immediate action is needed to fight preventable diseases.

AHPC director Rosemary Calder said: “Despite 1 in 2 Australians living with a chronic disease and 1 in 5 people battling two or more chronic diseases, less than 2 per cent of government health spending is dedicated to prevention.”

Calder said health leaders nationally hold grave concerns about the lack of prevention of chronic disease.

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Michael Moore said the tool shows almost one-third of chronic disease could be prevented by removing risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity and high body mass.

“[It's particular shocking that] almost 30 per cent of Australians are either obese or overweight and 91.5 per cent of Australians are not doing enough physical activity,” Moore said. “Now more than ever, the elected government needs to implement measures to stop the rise in chronic disease in its tracks.”

The tool did provide some good news, including a drop in smoking rates and reduced risky alcohol intake, as well as fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease, stroke and common cancers.

Still, Calder said, the improvements are “masked by frustration”, as they show that change can occur but government, industry and community need to take the lead.

“We hope that Australia’s Health Tracker will be a tool for action and accountability to protect the most important asset in our country – our health,” she said.

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