Budget 2022 response
31 March 2022
Yet again, this year's budget falls short on chronic disease prevention.
It is a strong reminder that, without funding commitments, the impact of national strategies is severely limited.
The public health community was buoyed by the December release of the National Preventive Health Strategy, which outlines evidence-based actions and targets to reduce major risk factors for chronic disease.
The 2022-23 budget provided a prime opportunity to harness the health expertise and community goodwill that went into developing the strategy and to better fund the prevention of chronic diseases, which are the leading cause of disability and death in Australia.
Instead, the budget continues to prioritise disease management and treatment at the expense of prevention and population health. Nearly 40 percent of chronic disease could be prevented by addressing risk factors, yet leading risk factors - including smoking, obesity, and unhealthy diet - are almost entirely overlooked and underfunded in this budget.
There is welcome funding for increasing physical activity through expanding participation in walking programs and targeting at-risk population groups who would benefit most from moving more. There is also ongoing support for sports programs in schools.
When it comes to early detection and risk assessment, funding to boost cancer screening is welcome to prioritise appointments that were delayed or missed during COVID-19. Plus a health promotion campaign to encourage health checks and continued telehealth appointments, though it is unclear if this relates primarily to cancer or broader chronic disease health checks that may have been missed.
Finally, the permanency of telehealth under the MBS was a welcome inclusion in the budget, which health groups have called for since its introduction at the start of the pandemic.
Overall, despite some positive funding and announcements, this budget falls short on prevention and public health and is a missed opportunity to leverage the recent National Preventive Health Strategy and National Obesity Strategy.
The National Preventive Health Strategy sets a target of investing 5% of the health budget in prevention by 2030, but the 2022-23 budget announcements fall way short of this target.
Smoking is the leading preventable risk factor for chronic disease, yet there is no meaningful boost in investment to reduce smoking.
There is no mention of, or investment in, the new National Obesity Strategy, despite obesity being a leading risk factor for chronic diseases.
There is funding to increase physical activity by increasing participation in walking programs and through sports programs.
There is some funding for nutrition, including a national policy framework and research into restricting marketing of unhealthy products, but this falls short of the required investment to improve healthy eating and food environments in Australia.
There is some promising funding for cancer screening programs to support catch-up appointments that were delayed or cancelled due to COVID-19, and some health promotion funding to support health checks.
Telehealth is a welcome announcement under funding for the National Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan.
This budget highlights why the development of action plans alone is not enough. Numerous strategies have been developed in the past 5 years but many are underfunded or delayed, limiting their impact.
With the upcoming election, ACDPA is calling on the government to invest in national strategies and action plans to prevent and reduce risk factors, and improve outcomes for people affected by chronic disease.