Part 1: How health lost its way

By Professor Ian Hickie, Executive Director of the Brain & Mind Research Institute

Those who followed the period leading into the 2020 Summit may have thought that the agenda would focus on the big challenges ahead and not just the obvious dysfunction of our 1984 ‘universal’ health system.

Repeated in-depth evaluations of community health priorities indicate that indigenous health, mental health and children’s health and well-being (with large emphasis on obesity and mental health) are at the top of the list.

Just prior to the Summit the Prime Minister’s announcement on coordination of early childhood care, education and health services provided the perfect opportunity for a proactive health summit response. The media preoccupation with the central role of a new mother and child could have been woven into a new comprehensive emphasis on the urgent need to invest in health and well-being for all future Australians.

Sadly, this great opportunity was largely missed by the narrow responses proposed by the health participants. The health sector listens to the health industry and, consequently, is increasingly disconnected from those other areas of social, community and professional life from which real solutions leap forward.

Read more on the website here.

Part 2: A healthy look at the future

By Professor Stephen Leeder, Director of the Australian Health Policy Institute

The twelve years from now to 2020 will be constrained by demographic imperatives, economic realities, and demands of sustainability, Asian development and climate change. Within those constraints we will have choices – how wisely can we make them?

In proposing a national health strategy, major points of agreement emerged quickly among the hundred delegates in the Health Stratgey Stream. The 17 years less life expectancy experienced by Indigenous Australians was unacceptable, and to ensure more equitable care for people in remote socio-economically disadvantaged Australia was urgent. A more energetic approach to IT for a portable, personal medical record was proposed, essential for the decades of care for people with long-term continuing health problems such as emphysema. The continuing value of research was acknowledged. Chronic illness scares everyone, especially mental problems, and better linked up care is critical between public and private, health workforce and Commonwealth and States.

In the sub-group looking at prevention, I learned from the CEO of Woolworths, Michael Luscombe, that Coke Zero and Diet Coke cost one third less to produce than sugar laden Coke. An interesting possibility exists for a conversation with Amatil, of tobacco fame and that now runs Coca Cola, for preferential pricing for the less health damaging Zero.

This, we agreed, was the kind of conversation that the Prime Minister could have with CEOs of major urban developers, food manufacturers and retailers in pursuit of making it easier for people to choose goods that do not screw up their health. Such a forum was recommended.

Read more on the website here.

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Peter Fray
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