Page 1564 - Week 04 - Thursday, 7 April 2011

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current trends in obesity continue, the life expectancy of ACT people will decrease. The recently released Picture the future: healthcare 2030 report also suggests that three in four Australians will be overweight or obese in 2030 if current trends continue. Minister, what is the ACT government’s response to the warning that for the first time in many generations life expectancy will go backwards?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Bresnan for the question. Not only that report but other data we are getting through a range of tests that are done across government, including through education but also through the Chief Health Officer’s report, are all indicating that lifestyle-related factors are going to increase the burden on the health system. Diet and lack of physical exercise, poor nutrition and lack of appropriate amounts of exercise, are leading contributors to that.

What I have asked Health to do is to go back and look at all the programs where we are providing our preventative health messages. Indeed, in the last year we have started a number of programs in this area to make sure that we are targeting the messages in the right places. I think this is an ongoing discussion about whether a general sort of broad-based population approach applies or whether we actually get down to dealing with particular population groups across the community where we are seeing no improvements or in fact deterioration in some of the health areas. The public health area in ACT Health led by the Chief Health Officer is doing that work and providing that advice to me.

Here in the ACT to a large extent and compared to national indicators, we do pretty well in terms of our overall health, but I am increasingly concerned that we are not putting in enough effort or we are not targeting our effort to those areas where we need to do better. That I guess goes from whether we try to blanket the whole community or whether we look to more focused and targeted programs in relation to management of not only obesity but other areas as well, such as smoking, for example, where again we are seeing improvements in some areas of the community and deterioration in others. But that work is underway.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Bresnan, a supplementary?

MS BRESNAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, given much of the government-initiated debate about health care focuses on acute care, when the main threats to life expectancies are in preventable chronic disease, what program funding is the government undertaking to address these issues, beyond developing plans and strategies?

MS GALLAGHER: We have been putting more money into this area. I will accept it is not enough. In terms of where you look at the ratio, more goes into the acute system to deal with the current demands. It makes it difficult to allocate adequate resources into preventative health and health promotion areas. But we do have a fair bit of money going in there. For the health promotion grants alone there is $2 million a year. What I am worried about is some of the money that we are putting in; I want to make sure that it is actually targeted into the right areas. Increasingly, I think we can see areas of disadvantage where health messages are not getting through, where they are not targeted appropriately for one reason or another.

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