by Gopalan on  September 6, 2009 at 10:35 AM General Health News
 Australia to Set Up Preventative Health Agency to Fight Lifestyle Diseases
Australia is to set up preventative health agency to fight obesity, smoking and lifestyle diseases.

The agency will oversee public health campaigns and research and provide policy advice on preventable illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

It is one of the key recommendations made in a report released by the Preventative Health Taskforce last week.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the agency will receive more than $17 million in federal funding for the first four years.

"This will be the first time in Australia's history that we have a national, autonomous agency to deal with prevention and to make recommendations to Government, also to oversee programs, social marketing campaigns," she told ABC News.

"This is the first step in changing long term the way we look after our health."

She says the independent agency will be the first of its kind in Australia.

"This is something that was a top priority in the National Health Prevention taskforce report last week," she said.

"We have legislation that will be going into the Parliament in the next fortnight and this is an opportunity for us to fundamentally change the way we think about looking after our own health for decades to come."

The Australian Medical Association has welcomed the plans.

AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said doctors have been actively involved in providing preventive healthcare and advice for smoking, alcohol abuse and excess weight for a long time, and will continue to do so, but they will need greater support in providing prevention plans for patients to meet the targets set by the Taskforce.

"The AMA advocates a comprehensive package of preventive measures to be coordinated by doctors, and general practitioners in particular," Dr Pesce said.

"I am pleased that the Taskforce recommends that, as part of the first phase of the Prevention Strategy, the role of primary care in prevention be further strengthened and supported.

"We need funding models that will allow GPs to spend time with their patients to make sure that they can incorporate more preventive health strategies into the health care plans for these people.

"Many of the measures proposed by the Taskforce reflect AMA policy on obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, and Indigenous health, and will deliver health benefits to the community."

Dr Pesce said the AMA supports specific Taskforce recommendations on:

simple and informative nutritional labelling on food products;

restricting broadcast advertising of junk food to children;

banning all remaining forms of tobacco advertising and promotion;

mandating plain packaging of tobacco;

increasing taxation on tobacco; and

restricting the promotion of alcohol products to young people, including sponsorship of sport and cultural events.

"People need help to be convinced to adopt the lifestyle changes that will provide better health and better quality of life," Dr Pesce said.

"While education and marketing campaigns can help promote the prevention message, the real benefits of prevention are generated through personal one-on-one interface in general practice.

"GPs must be supported to make the Taskforce's prevention targets a reality," Dr Pesce said.

Dr Pesce said that in its submission to the Taskforce the AMA recognised the place of prevention in Australia's health system, but also recognised the importance of a strong commitment to the resourcing of acute care and treatment.

Source: Medindia

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