A comprehensive report shows the health of Australians continues to improve and as a nation we are healthier than we’ve ever been.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s biennial report, Australia’s Health 2004, found that Australians are living longer, more people are surviving cancer, fewer people are dying from heart disease, less people are smoking, childhood vaccinations rates have increased considerably and dental health is improving.
The report confirms that high quality health services are widely available and readily accessible.
Australia’s Health 2004 is the national ‘Report Card’. While it shows that Australians’ health continues to improve it also details particular challenges such as Indigenous health, increasing obesity and diabetes rates.
Diabetes is a national health priority. The government spends more than $300 million a year treating diabetes but collectively we need to do more to prevent the onset of diabetes. The government has a range of programs to tackle obesity and will be announcing further programs shortly. Indigenous health poses an enormous challenge. The government has substantially increased funding for Indigenous health, opened more Indigenous health clinics and employed more Indigenous health workers.
Australia’s life expectancy is among the best in the world at 80 years of age. However, life expectancy of Indigenous Australians remains 20 years lower. Our cancer survival statistics are among the best in the world and suicide rates are gradually falling with the rate for young men the lowest in 20 years. The report also shows that Australia’s health workforce has increased by 12 per cent between 1996 and 2001.
The report found that 50 per cent of people undergoing elective surgery in public hospitals are treated within four weeks; however, about 5 per cent of people waited more than 12 months for elective surgery. The number of public hospital beds has remained the same compared to a 5 per cent increase in beds in private hospitals.
Australia’s Health 2004 found there has been an increase in out of pocket expenses, which is why the government’s new Medicare Safety Net is so important. It will provide more than one million Australians a year with higher Medicare rebates.
“Australia’s health system is the among the best in the world. This report refutes claims by some that Australia’s health system is in crisis. We do have problems and challenges but the Commonwealth Government, working with the state and territory governments and health professionals, is continuing to address these,” Mr Abbott said.
“Government spending on health has increased and has grown to more than 9.3 per cent of GDP. This year the government will spend about $41 billion on Australians’ health. As a percentage of the Federal Budget, health spending has gone from under 15 per cent to over 20 per cent since 1996.
“This report shows that Australia needs strong public and private health systems to meet the health care needs of the Australian community. The public sector would not be able to sustain the increasing demand without the private sector.”
A full copy of the report is at www.aihw.gov.au