May 15, 2013

Health: missed opportunities in narrow budget focus

The health sector is reporting only on a very limited portion of the budget, rather than approaching all policies through the lens of health. Is this the right approach?

Melissa Sweet

Health journalist and Croakey co-ordinator

What will the federal budget mean for our health? For all the thousands of words written on this (and Crikey‘s Croakey blog has contributed its share), the question cannot be properly answered. Many of the budget’s health impacts will result from measures outside the health portfolio, yet we in the media seem strangely happy to follow the government’s lead in reporting on health as if we were a product of the Health Department.

If we are to develop some real understanding of the budget’s implications for health, it would help enormously if someone (the government, researchers, media, the informed citizenry?) could do a health impact assessment. This is a tool for evaluating the positive and negative consequences for health of policies across sectors, as well as identifying unintended consequences. HIAs also consider whether policies impact differently on the health of different groups, and whether they will exacerbate or reduce health inequalities.

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2 thoughts on “Health: missed opportunities in narrow budget focus

  1. Margo

    Hopefully, in terms of HIAs, we will learn more from the South Australian experience ( — but, as with all of these things, the challenge will be in disentangling the extent to which its various benefits and disappointments relate directly to the idea or to its implementation.

  2. Fran Baum

    Excellent comments Melissa. Next month the WHO is hosting the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion which is on the theme of “Health in All Polices” (HiAP). I will be attended and addressing the conference about the evaluation of the The South Australian government HiAP approach. It would be great if the Federal government could follow suit with a HiAP initiative. The Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee recommended in its March report on “Australia’s domestic response to the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health” that social determinants should be considered in all relevant policy development activities particularly in relation to education, employment, housing, family and social security policy. I would add that trade policy is equally important.
    HiAP is important in stressing that government is not just about surpluses and busgets but about ensuring a better quality of life for all of us.

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