Obesity and diabetes are being flagged as the main concerns for the government in the latest report card on the nation’s health.
The Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council, chaired by former Victorian Premier John Brumby, has released its latest snapshot on the progress of the states, territories and Commonwealth against the 2008 National Health Agreement.
"You’re going to see big increases in circulatory disease issues, heart attacks and strokes. You’re going to see big increases in diabetes, so this is a big cost issue," Mr Brumby said.
The report said nearly 63 per cent of Australian adults are either overweight or obese.
"We are now one of the most overweight or obese countries in the world, it’s a rare distinction".
The Council said there will probably be a logical rise in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes because it’s linked to obesity.
A state-to-state breakdown shows the number of obese or overweight people in South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory has gone up by about 5 per cent in each jurisdiction from 2007 to 2012.
In Queensland, 30 per cent of adults were obese in 2011-12. South Australia wasn’t far behind at 29.2 per cent, followed by the Northern Territory at 27.9 per cent.
Areas of concern
The Council has highlighted six areas of concern in its Healthcare in Australia report:
- Diabetes and obesity on the rise;
- Potentially preventable hospitalisation rates;
- An increase in the wait times for elective surgery;
- A longer wait to access aged care services;
- More Australians putting off dental care because it’s too expensive;
- A steep rise of 88 per cent in the number of lung cancer cases in women from 1982 – 2012.
Living longer, smoking less
On a positive note, the Council said Australians are now living longer. It’s attributing that to a decrease in the rates of new cancers and circulatory disease.
John Brumby said smoking rates in Australia have dropped to 16 per cent but the Government needs to do more work of meeting its target of 10 per cent by 2018.
"From previous reports, the OECD has described progress in Australia as astonishing, really an example to the rest of the world," he said in Canberra yesterday.
But he issued a stark warning, saying there will be a lingering effect for women who took up smoking in the 1970s and 80s.
Statistics show lung cancer cases in women rose by 88 per cent between 1982 and 2012.
"Lung cancer rates among women have not yet peaked and we therefore alert governments to this issue," Mr Brumby said.
The Council is warning Governments to take action now to detect cancer cases.
“If you’ve got better protection, better early treatment, you have much higher survival rates”
The Council report shows progress has been made over the last few years to increase Australians’ life expectancy, reduce infant mortality and circulatory diseases.
Statistics show progress is also being made in tackling potentially avoidable deaths and conditions, as well as reducing emergency department waiting times.
The Council said it’s a good indicator the Commonwealth and local governments are working together to improve our health.
Not looking after our teeth
Council Chair John Brumby said it’s worrying some Australians are not going to see their dentist, orthodontist or other dental professional because of the cost.
According to the report, nearly one in five (18.8 per cent) of Australians aged over 15 put off seeing a dentist.
The statistics were worse in poorer communities.
"Amongst poorer communities, one in four people put off or put off forever going to see a dental professional because of the cost," said Mr Brumby.
"If you go to the doctor, particularly in most disadvantaged areas, it’s bulk-billed, there’s no cost to the patient. But, if you go to the dentist, there’s a significant cost and it’s a big deterrent to people."
Indigenous Australians continue to be the exception to the rule, with shorter life expectancies and higher rates of cancer and preventable conditions.
The Northern Territory, with a population of over 50,000 Aboriginal people, had the highest rate of daily smokers and adults with type 2 diabetes.
Another recent COAG report found progress in Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancies has made little progress.
Axing the independent umpire
This is the last major report from the COAG Reform Council, it’ll be axed on June 30 as part of cost savings measures by the Government.
The Council was created by John Howard when he was Prime Minister in 2006, before it was revitalised by the Rudd Government when he took office.
Senate Estimates hearings last month revealed about $10 million had been spent on the Reform Council over the last few years.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott hopes to save about $8 million by dissolving the Council and handing its job to federal departments.
John Brumby said from June 30, the states and territories could be doing more to measure their own performance.
"It doesn’t matter what side of politics you come from, for all of us, for every dollar of taxpayers money spent, we want to see the best results in health and education," he said.
But Mr Brumby said an independent umpire was needed to objectively measure how the states, territories and Commonwealth were travelling.
"You need someone there independently to measure the results."